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3G auction left to next govt

Ishita Russell  |  New Delhi 

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has identified auctioning of 3G spectrum, stuck due to differences in the government, and finalisation of an agreement with the defence ministry for vacation of spectrum as issues which will need immediate action by the next government.

The 3G auction process has already been delayed thrice from its initial schedule (which was to end in February) due to inter-ministry disagreement on issues like the reserve price and the quantum to be auctioned. The matter was referred to the cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA), which put the decision in the hand of a Group of Ministers (GoM) in January.

A few days later, the clamps on decision making in the election code of conduct came into force. The GoM has not met on the issue.

Last year, the government had estimated revenues between Rs 30,000-35,000 crore from these auctions. The target is likely to be missed in the current economic slowdown.

The memorandum of understanding to be signed between the DoT and the defence ministry for vacation of spectrum by the latter has also been delayed.The talks have been on for over two years. In the wake of the 3G auctions and the need for more spectrum in the civilian space, a meeting of a group of ministers (GoM) was held in February. The meeting was attended by telecom minister A Raja, defence minister A K Antony, home minister P Chidambaram, Planning Commission head Montek Singh Ahluwalia and others.

In the GoM, it was decided that a dedicated optical fibre network for the armed forces would be set up within the next four years. About Rs 9,000 crore would be required and approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs required.

On the signing of the MoU, the defence forces will vacate 15 Mhz of spectrum. While 10 Mhz will be used for 3G and will be auctioned, 5 Mhz will be used for 2G services. The vacation of spectrum will however take place in a phased manner.

First Published: Mon, April 27 2009. 01:03 IST