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Mobile phone customers deserve better protection against text messages from marketers that cost wireless users up to $35 a month, says a consumer advocacy group.

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AFP – NEW DELHI (AFP) – India said Friday it would hold an auction of airwaves to offer so-called third generation or 3G mobile phone services in mid-January, a report said.

“The electronic auction date is January 15,” Telecom Secretary Sidhharth Behura told reporters in New Delhi, according to the Press Trust of India.

The reserve price for a licence for 3G spectrum — or radio bandwidth — is 20.20 billion rupees (412 million dollars) for licences covering all of India but Communications Minister Andimuthu Raja said last August he expected to “realise significantly higher amounts” — between 300 and 400 billion rupees.

India became the latest nation on Thursday to have 3G technology after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launched a free 3G trial service of state-run phone company MTNL.

All radio frequencies for providing 3G services are being offered in the auction in which all telecoms companies — existing operators, licence holders and international players — can bid.

Even if it appears the sale will bring in less money than initially expected due to the global financial turmoil, Raja has said India will go ahead with the auction as “it is the progress of the country that counts.”

The move will give mobile users access to high-end data applications on their phones, including high speed interactive gaming and Internet access, video conferencing, video streaming and other multimedia features.

India has the world’s fastest growing mobile market. Indian mobile telephone operators signed up a record 10.42 million mobile users in October, bucking a slowdown in the rest of the economy.

The country had a total of 364 million telephone subscribers at the end of October, including 326 million wireless users.

With the mobile sales boom, scarce spectrum has become a sore issue with Indian mobile operators who are eager to get next-generation frequencies to ease airwave congestion in the country of over 1.1 billion people.

The government expects the telecom subscriber base to nearly double by 2012 to 700 million users as operators penetrate the vast rural areas.

Teledensity, or the number of phone users for every 100 individuals, in rural areas stands at 13 percent and 72 percent in urban areas. The national average is 32 percent.

India allowed private mobile operators in the mid-90s but subscriber growth has only significantly gathered pace since the turn of the century, rising around 25 times between 2002 and 2007.

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