I’m not a betting man but the latest announcement on the elusive Indian 3G license auction has me wondering if a small wager against it happening is not a good bet!   This is despite Telecom Minister, Andimuthu Raja, confirming that the 3G license auction will start, as planned, on January 14th, 2010.

It seems like eons since the spectrum auction was first mooted and there here have been reports of further time setbacks due to issues with the release of military radio spectrum and a delay in sending out the formal notifications earlier this month.

The auction is expected to nett at least US$1.5 billion for the government. A separate WiMAX license auction will start two weeks after the 3G auction is completed.

And the introduction of Mobile Number Portability (MNP) is also being delayed further. Both of India’s state-controlled mobile networks and the private operators all look like missing the year-end deadline.

The MNP system was due, after prior delays, to be offered in the main cities in January and the rest of the country by April. The operators are now seeking a delay in the cities and potentially for a single nationwide launch in June.

The main area causing the delay is reported to be the interconnection between the various operators and testing requirements by the Department of Telecommunications.

However, there appears to be no rush to introduce anything that could see close to one in five Indian subscribers change operators, according to a Nielsen survey earlier this year. And for whatever reason, the delays don’t send the right message to foreign investors hoping to see efficiency gains in one of the country’s most regulated sectors.