The Centre on Thursday issued notices inviting bids from private telecom players to participate in the auction of radio frequency spectrum for third generation (3G) telephony, allowing three private players in most circles and four in five states including Punjab and Bihar.

The government set Rs.3, 500 crore as the starting auction price for one slot, the department of telecom (DoT) said in its notice inviting applications (NIA) for the bandwidth auction, set for April 9.

The same notice also carried details of the auction for broadband services whose base reserve price for an all India rollout has been set at Rs.1,750 crore.

According to the notice on the website of the DoT, the auction will have two phases — clock stage and frequency identification stage.

“The clock stage will establish the bidders to be awarded a block in each telecom service area where there is at least one block available to auction. In each service area bidders will bid for a right to a single spectrum block not linked to any specific frequency,” said the notice.

This stage will result in a common winning price for all the blocks within a circle and subsequently the bidders from the service area. The clock stage will be followed by a frequency identification stage that will identify specific frequencies for the winning bidders.

“The frequencies identified will be announced simultaneous with the outcome of the clock stage. The frequency identification stage will be a random identification of frequencies performed automatically by the electronic auction system.”

The schedule calls for the process to end on April 10. The government also said auction for spectrum for broadband services will also be held two days after the process concludes for 3G spectrum.

The number of slots up for auction excludes those allotted to state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd., which were allotted licences last year and have since started offering 3G services in their operating circles.

The government also invited applications from mobile operators to participate in the auction of 3G spectrum.

According to the NIA, the auction for 3G spectrum auction in 22 circles, most of the circles including four metros — Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai — would have three private players.

The announcement came after some contentious issues surrounding the auction such as base reserve price, the number of operators in a particular circle and the reluctance of the defence forces to vacate spectrum was resolved among various ministries.

Third generation telecom services allow faster connectivity than what is available now, and will enable applications such as internet TV, video-on-demand, audio-video calls and high-speed data exchange.

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