India’s Department of Telecoms has finalised its National Wireless Broadband licences as part of a drive to rollout mobile broadband in the country’s rural regions. Each of India’s 22 telecom circles will be able to host just one private operator, with state-owned operator BSNL taking the second slot in each circle.
Due to commence next month, bidding will be open to mobile operators, ISPs and fixed-line providers. A statement from the DoT confirmed that "BSNL will be asked to match the price quoted by the successful private sector bidder in each circle after we conclude the tendering exercise that is likely to start next month. If no private telco bids in a particular circle, BSNL will be asked to go it alone.”
Firms in possession of 3G and BWA spectrum following last year’s auction will likely have the advantage in this round of bidding, but firms which obtain NWB licences will be able to choose any suitable platform.
The DoT has stated that the project’s objective is “to expand pan-India wireless broadband coverage by leveraging the existing passive infrastructure created for mobile telephony in rural and remote locations."
The Universal Service Obligation Fund is due to subsidise the initiative. The DoT will announce each telecom circle’s subsidy component following an assessment of their projected revenue and business potential.