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India Readies for FM Phase III

E-auction could allow for a quadrupling of FM operators

India’s Group of Ministers has approved an e-auction system for the FM Phase III rollout. Some 700 additional FM licenses will be up for bid in the process.

Currently there are about 200 private FM channels across India, mostly in the larger metropolitan areas. The Phase III licenses will focus more on smaller cities and towns, areas where private FM radio is not yet in place.

The new licenses will be for 15-year terms; current licenses last for 10 years with renewals starting in 2015. The ministers did not address the issue of extending current licensees.

Initially, the Phase III licenses were expected to be allocated in 2009, but the global economic slowdown and concerns about the viability of new and continuing private radio stations, as well as some regulatory and infrastructure questions, lead to a delay. The process is expected to be complete by year-end.

The Group of Ministers said that the e-auction process will ensure greater transparency in the allocation of licenses.