India will begin a long-delayed auction of third-generation (3G) radio spectrum on January 14, 2010, the telecoms ministry said on Saturday.

Firms have to submit bids by December 21 for a total of 71 blocks of spectrum put up for auction across 20 of India's 22 telecom zones, according to a memorandum to prospective bidders.

The auction, which would introduce high-speed Internet and video downloads on mobile phones, was originally slated for January 2009 but was deferred to December after differences between the telecoms and finance ministries over the reserve price for the bids.

The government did not give a reason for the second extension.

The base price for 3G spectrum across the country is Rs 350 crore ($750 million), and Telecoms Minister Andimuthu Raja has said the government would net at least Rs 2500 crore from the sale.

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