Asia Watch: India 3G Update

In another twist to India's 3G plotline, the government plans to proceed with the 3G spectrum auction in January but delay making the spectrum available to the winning bidders until August 2010, according to local reports.

The January date was set in late October, but that timeline seemed out of reach only weeks ago. (See Green Light for India's 3G Auction and India Faces Further 3G Delay.)

Now, though, the Economic Times reports that the January target is still in the Indian government's sights. The paper quotes India's telecom minister, Mr A Raja, as saying the winning bidders would be able to delay the majority of their license payments until the spectrum is made available. (See India Sets 3G Spectrum Price.)

So now, it seems, India's competitive 3G players are set to be indentified in January, but not be able to compete with state-owned carriers Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. (MTNL) until well into the second half of 2010, further extending the advantage those two operators have enjoyed since being handed their 3G spectrum in late 2008. (See MTNL Launches Prepaid 3G, MTNL Seeks 3G International Rescue, MTNL Launches 3G, and BSNL Does 3G With Ericsson.)

It should be noted, though, that none of India's operators would be able to fire up a 3G service within a few months of auction success, so the additional delay shouldn't be too excessive.

Meanwhile, competition in the 2G mobile services market has intensified further in recent days with the launch of services from new entrant S Tel Pvt. Ltd. , which is backed by Bahrain Telecommunications Co. (Batelco) , and an expansion into an additional "circle" by Uninor, which is backed by Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN). (See S Tel Launches in India and Uninor Launches in Orissa.)

Uninor launched its first services at the beginning of December, by which time the Indian mobile market should have passed the 500 million subscriber threshold. (See Uninor Launches in India and India Adds 16.7M Mobile Lines in October.)

To find out more about India's telecom market, including a map of the service areas, or "circles," check out our special feature, A Guide to India's Telecom Market.

Other news of note from the Asia/Pacific region includes:

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

COMMENTS Add Comment
digits 12/5/2012 | 3:50:31 PM
re: Asia Watch: India 3G Update

The latest word coming from the Indian press, citing government ministers, is that the auction is now set for late February, early March....





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