updated 03:00 pm EST, Fri December 12, 2008
India 3G Auction
The Indian government today said it would hold auctions starting on January 16th that will provide the south Asian country its first true 3G service as well as provide headroom for possible 4G networks. The auctions will let both domestic and foreign companies bid on both the 2.1GHz wireless frequency, often used for HSPA-based 3G elsewhere in the world, as well as the 2.3GHz and 2.5GHz bands most commonly used for WiMAX.
Rules will be in place to maintain a certain degree of Indian control over any wireless service. Any foreign winner with 50 percent more of a financial stake in any resulting project will require government approval, while no outsider will be allowed more than 74 percent control. Two government-supported companies, Bharat Sanchar Nigam and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam, are also guaranteed a portion of spectrum for each auction but will pay the same licensing fees as private carriers.
No names have been revealed ahead of the auction, which takes its last applications on January 5th.
Both auctions are virtually essential to faster mobile Internet access for India, which also lacks a common 2G network for data. The basic state of the network has been considered a major hindrance for the success of the iPhone 3G in the country, which forced its sole provider Vodafone to launch with only GPRS for wireless Internet access beyond Wi-Fi. The existing iPhone supports 2.1GHz HSPA and so would be ready for local 3G. Early 3G service is already running in parts of Delhi as of Thursday but only through Mahanagar's network.
WiMAX is also potentially necessary to provide high-speed Internet-only access to much of the country, whose rural population has often had to go without service due to the cost of running networks.