The country will have third-generation (3G) mobile phone services by the middle of next year, Communications Minister A Raja said on Thursday, signalling the government's keenness to release spectrum for services mired in a regulatory tug-of-war.
Current 2G services are in themselves in the grip of a corporate war over scarce spectrum needed for expansion, while 3G will need another band of spectrum on which data will travel at high speeds to enable advanced services such as video downloads, live TV and stock trading.
"We are hopeful that some spectrum for both 2G (second generation) and 3G services will be vacated by the end of this year. I hope that would pave the way for a rollout of 3G services by mid next year," the minister told an industry forum on 3G services in the capital.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended a policy on 3G mobile technologies in September 2006. Its chairman Nripendra Misra, also speaking to the forum, said it was high time that a clear policy was announced by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
"I had announced recommendations for 3G in 2006, and a policy should be announced soon. I think it is already delayed," the regulator said.
But he indicated that launching services may take longer.
He said if a policy was announced now, the process of inviting bids for the auction of spectrum to allocate spectrum will take more than a year, provided it is not stalled by litigation in court.
"After auction it will take 6 to 8 months in deployment," Misra said.
He said that India is yet to formalise the bandwidth on which the technology would be run. The regulator also said that the manufacturing sector will have to keep the equipment ready.