India unlikely to auction unsold spectrum soon at reduced price

NEW DELHI: India’s Telecom minister Manoj Sinha on Friday hinted that spectrum which remained unsold in the just-concluded auction — including premium 700 Mhz band, will not be put up for sale immediately at reduced prices, according to PTI report.

“If the financial condition (of operators) is not good and they cannot take the spectrum now, what is the guarantee that they will take it, if we conduct auctions immediately. We will take a call at an opportune time,” the minister said.

He further said, “If they (operators) have not bought the spectrum, we believe they were not in condition to buy and also the ecosystem does not exist. So, we will talk once the ecosystem develops or they should say they can take it,” he said.

To a question on whether the government would prefer to wait before placing the unsold spectrum on the block once again, he said, “They (operators) have to make upfront payment now and other payments too…the industry view was that it (spectrum in 700 Mhz band) was expensive…they say they do not have the money. Keeping this in mind, government will decide what will be the right time for further auction.”

Even though the industry is of the opinion that the pricing was unrealistically high for the efficient 700 Mhz band, the minister defended the government’s decision.

“We have heard their (industry’s) view but the pricing was decided by a mechanism…the other thing is that appropriate ecosystem (for the band) is also not yet developed. Both reasons were there,” he said.

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