Thirty-four days and 183 rounds after it began, India’s auction of third generation (3G) wireless service licenses ended on Wednesday with a final bid total of US$14.6 billion that is nearly double the amount anticipated by the government. The auction is expected to relieve the nation’s increasingly critical shortage of available wireless bandwidth, especially in Delhi, Mumbai and other major markets where mobile carriers have been unable to add new subscribers in spite of surging demand. (India—the second-largest wireless market in the world with 580 million subscribers—added 20 million new wireless accounts during the month of March alone.) Analysts also say the high prices posted at the auction are likely to strain the balance sheets of the winning bidders who have been hit with declining revenues as fierce competition continues to cut into calling rates. In all, seven carriers posted winning bids for 71 regional licenses. Bharti Airtel, India’s largest wireless operator, committed the highest bid total of $2.6 billion for spectrum that covers 13 markets, including the cities of Delhi and Mumbai. Voadafone Essar emerged as the auction’s second highest bidder, pledging $2.5 billion for 3G licenses in nine service areas. Reliance Communications, the nation’s second-largest wireless firm, bid $1.85 billion for 13 service areas. Aircel, another major competitor in India’s wireless sector, posted $1.4 billion in winning bids for 13 licenses that serve mainly second- and third-tier areas. Although the spectrum won by Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance are expected to expand the service footprints of those companies, no single bidder in the auction came away with bandwidth that covers all of India’s 22 service areas. Noting that “the auction format and severe spectrum shortage . . . drove the prices beyond reasonable levels,” an Airtel spokesman said, “we did not achieve our objective of pan-India 3G footprint in this round.”