3G spectrum shortage, auction format were hurdles: Airtel

New Delhi, May 19 (IANS) India’s leading telecom operator Bharti Airtel, which won 13 circles in the auction of airwaves for third generation (3G) telephony, said it could not achieve pan-India target as auction format and spectrum shortage drove prices beyond reasonable levels.

‘We would like to point out that the auction format and severe spectrum shortage along with ensuing policy uncertainty, drove the prices beyond reasonable levels. As a result, we could not achieve our objective of pan-India 3G footprint in this round,’ Bharti said in a statement.

Bharti, which won 13 of 22 circles, will have to pay Rs.12,295.46 crore ($2.73 billion) to the government.

‘This gives us a strategic footprint and an opportunity to provide 3G services in significant markets, including key metros and category ‘A’ circles,’ it said.

Other leading player Vodafone Essar won nine circles, in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Tamil Nadu and Haryana, for Rs.11,617 crore.

‘Vodafone Essar has secured a critical strategic footprint across the country, particularly in the markets where we expect the main demand for 3G services to be in the next few years. We aim to launch the services before the end of the year,’ said CEO & managing director Marten Pieters.

Aircel, which focussed largely on south India, won 13 circles and will have to shell out Rs.6,499.46 crore ($1.44 billion).

‘This will allow us to take our data strategy to the next level. It further opens new revenue opportunities and gives way to a dynamic business model. We now cover the whole of southern and eastern belt where we have our strong presence and in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh (East) as well. With this, we will be able to offer seamless connectivity and meaningful products and services to our consumers,’ said the company’s COO Gurdeep Singh.

The 3G auction, that concluded Wednesday, fetched Rs.67,718.95 crore ($15 billion) for the Indian government.

Slots for three-four players were available in the 22 circles into which the country was divided for 3G services that facilitate faster connectivity and applications such as Internet TV, video-on-demand, audio-video calls and high-speed data exchange.

Nine companies — Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Vodafone Essar, Idea Cellular, Tata Teleservices, Aircel, Etisalat, S Tel and Videocon Telecommunications — took part in the online auction that started April 9.

Among them, Etisalat and Videocon could not win a single circle.

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