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Spectrum bonanza ahead for DoT, minister is arbiter

Telecom operators sparring over spectrum could have some news to cheer, for supply could rise to ease a crunch, reports Archana Khatri.

business Updated: Nov 22, 2007 22:25 IST
Archana Khatri

Telecom operators sparring over spectrum could have some news to cheer, for supply could rise to ease a crunch.



If the rolling out of an optic fibre cable network (OFC) for Defence in about 400 locations is completed by March 2009, as per current plans, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will have an additional of 40 megahertz (MHz) of 2G spectrum and 80 MHz of 3G spectrum, facilitating further expansion of telecom services across the country and entry of more service providers, according to official documents.



While that seemed one ray of hope for tussling applicants and incumbents, another hope emerged on Thursday with

Press Trust of India

reporting that the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) had authorised Communications Minister A Raja to resolve the tussle over spectrum in which GSM players want more while regulatory criteria and rivals suggest that they have enough to spare or return.



Defence authorities have agreed in principle that they will vacate spectrum used for second generation (2G) and third generation (3G) mobile services, provided DoT lays down an alternate optic fibre cable network for its use.



While making a presentation on its spectrum allocation policy to Cabinet Secretary on Tuesday, DOT said that with completion of the first phase of the OFC project, which it expects to happen by December 2007, Defence will be able to vacate 15 MHz of 2G spectrum and 20MHz of 3G spectrum in most areas.



And with the completion of the optic fibre cable project in March 2009, Defence will be able to vacate additional 25MHz of 2G spectrum and 40MHz of 3G spectrum in most areas.



But whether Defence will release spectrum in phases or only after completion of the OFC network, are issues yet to be resolved between the DoT and Defence.



Last week, sources in the Ministry of Defence told

Hindustan Times

that defence authorities will be able to vacate spectrum to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) only after a pan-India exclusive optic fibre network meant to replace its spectrum is handed over to it and tested.



And the whole process of testing the network may itself take one full year. The OFC project for Air Force links with an estimated cost of Rs 1040 crore is being implemented by DoT and BSNL.



Sources in BSNL said that it has finished rolling out the OFC network for the Air Force in around 17 locations, where Defence has already started the field trials. DoT expects an OFC-based network for Air Force to be completed by December 2007, which seems unlikely as network involving around 150 locations is yet to be carried out. The Army and Navy are yet to submit their requirements to the DoT, said a BSNL official.