It’s becoming tiresome, but we hope that this, finally, is it. After much strife, speculation and dilly-dallying India has once again announced a revised schedule for the auction of 3G spectrum. This time, the timeline set is as follows:

Feb 25th: Notice inviting applications:
Mar 19th: Last date of submission of application
Mar 26th: Publication of ownership details of applicants
Mar 30th: Pre-qualification of bidders
April 5th & 6th: Mock auctions
Apr 9th: Start of 3G Auctions

2 days after close of 3G Auctions: Start of BWA auctions

One immediate issue with the proposed timeline is that not enough time has been provided between the mock auctions and the auctions: telecom operators had wanted more time to prepare their strategy for the auction.

Do read our comprehensive overview of all the issues that telecom operators raised during a pre-bid discussion: “You’re Dealing The Cards, But We Can’t Play Blind”. The 3G auction notice, which is expected to be released tomorrow, will be most interesting.

Easing Investment Guidelines

This timeline also means that the Indian government will not be able to raise the Rs. 33,000 crores it was expecting from 3G auctions in the 2009-2010 fiscal. India recently changed the guidelines for foreign investments in the county: foreign investments have prior approval from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board, the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Investment or Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs for initial investments, then they would not require fresh approvals. This means that existing operators like Uninor, Etisalat DB, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, among others, will not require approvals.