No additional spectrum likely before June

A final decision of 3G spectrum may not be coming during the remaining tenure of this government...

Written by ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Published: February 7, 2009 12:19 am

A final decision of 3G spectrum may not be coming during the remaining tenure of this government,as the dedicated line for defence forces cannot be completed before June. The Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee met today to review the status of spectrum held by the forces and ways to release it for telecom services.

The defence ministry and the telecom ministry agreed on setting up a dedicated alternate network for the defence services so that the spectrum occupied by them could be vacated for the existing 2G and 3G services.

However,reliable sources in the telecom ministry said that the dedicated line for the Air Force cannot be put in place before June,implying that no additional spectrum would be available before that period.

Notwithstanding the decision of the GoM today — and the envisaged Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that is likely to be signed in a week’s time for the release of 25 MG of spectrum — actual additional spectrum would not be available by that time.

Interestingly,telecom regulator TRAI has already ruled that 3G services be auctioned only after entire spectrum is available or else it would not create a level playing field among various operators.

The background note circulated among the member ministers of the GoM also talks about separating the dedicated line for Air Force,Navy and Army. It has estimated that the cost of putting in place dedicated line for Navy and Army would be over Rs 12,000 crore.

The ministry is understood to have favoured that cost of setting up dedicated line for Air Force — which is slightly over Rs 1100 crore — during the last two years by BSNL,be paid in the form of budgetary support to the public sector.

The department of telecom and the defence forces have been in talks for the past one year on vacation of additional spectrum by the forces for commercial use. Difference between various ministries on the floor price of the 3G airwaves had prompted the union cabinet earlier to hand over the proposal on auctioning of third generating spectrum to the GoM.

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