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Govt Asks SC To Extend 2G Auction Date To Mid-Nov

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The Union government has decided to seek an extension from the Supreme Court for conducting the auction for 2G spectrum in the 1800MHz and 800MHz band. It is believed that the government will seek time till around mid-November to conduct the auctions. The Supreme Court had given a deadline of August 31 for the auction after it cancelled 122 telecom licences on 2 February this year. It had later extended the validity of the quashed licences till 7 September.

Now that Gurgaon-based Times Internet Ltd has been appointed as the auctioneer, the process should move quite fast. The process had got delayed as a decision on the base price of spectrum was not taken till last week.

According to sources, as per the schedule provided by the auctioneer, the Information Memorandum for the auctions will be out sometime in late September. That by all means will be a pretty aggressive timeline. The auctions are crucial for telecom operators like Uninor and Sistema Shyam to continue operations in the country. However, operators are likely to be selective in bidding for spectrum.

The country is selling second-generation mobile radio spectrum through open auction for the first time, after the top court ruled that a 2008 government grant process was flawed and ordered to revoke all 122 zonal permits granted that year.

The auction was due by end-August, as the affected carriers' current permits are valid until September 7, but was widely expected to be delayed as the sale starting price and other rules had not been finalised in time.

A delay in the auction could mean that the affected carriers get more time to operate. Their licences were originally ordered to be revoked in early June, but the court allowed them to operate for four more months as the auction was delayed.

The Supreme Court's order affects eight carriers - including the Indian units of Norway's Telenor and Russia's Sistema and Idea Cellular.