The Department of Telecom has said 3G spectrum will be auctioned in four stages: invitation stage, pre-qualification, auction and grant of spectrum. It will hold a pre-bid conference on November 16. A mock auction will be conducted on January 11 and 12. “The auction will start on January 14, 2010,” DoT said.

“Interested foreign entities are allowed to participate in the auctions directly and apply for licences subsequently,” says the revised information memorandum, which sets forth eligibility criteria and time schedule.

Compared with the original plan announced by the Empowered Group of Ministers, there is a slippage of more than two weeks.

The memorandum also gives details of the spectrum charges the successful bidders will have to shell out over the spectrum acquisition fee. An annual spectrum charge will be levied on the total adjusted gross revenue of 2G and 3G services taken together.

However, there will be a moratorium of one year on the payment of annual spectrum charges for standalone 3G operators. However, the existing operators with 2G as well as 3G spectrum will not enjoy any moratorium.

As for the roll-out obligation, the memorandum says that in the metros, the licensee should provide service in at least 90 per cent of the area within five years.

The memorandum also gives details of the number of blocks available in each circle for auction. The Empowered Group of Ministers had earlier said five blocks of spectrum would be auctioned in each circle, with one block reserved for the BSNL and the MTNL. However, there is no block available for auction in Rajasthan and North East.