Cabinet ends 8-year spectrum sharing stalemate

Cabinet ends 8-year spectrum sharing stalemate

54New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) The union cabinet Wednesday ended an eight-year-long dispute of spectrum sharing between the defence and telecom sectors by earmarking bands for exclusive use of the former while also specifying use of remaining airwaves for civilian purposes such as telecom and civil aviation.

Addressing the media after a meeting of the union cabinet here, Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that nine slots will be for exclusive use of the defence sector in between 3 MHz and 40 gigahertz.

“Today also I met (Defence Minister) Manohar Parrikar with our officials and discussed the matter. This matter (spectrum swapping) was pending for 8 years. Defence released 5 MHz of 2100 bands for telecom usage” Prasad said.

He said that nine slots will be for exclusive use of defence and added that spectrum is mainly used by departments such as defence, telecom, space, civil aviation and information & broadcasting.

“We had to take a balanced view of all these things.”

The telecom ministry earlier had proposed to exchange 15 Mhz spectrum it holds in 1900 Mhz band with same quantum of airwaves held by the defence ministry in 2100 Mhz. The 2100 Mhz band is used for 3G telecommunications services.

“Swapping of 15 MHz in the frequency band of 1900 MHz with the telecommunications had been permitted to be done today. Now the exact swapping will start; it will take some time,” the minister said.

Regarding harmonisation of defence band between telecom and defence, Prasad said: “The band in the 1700-2000 MHz is required to be harmonised. The Cabinet has approved that this harmony must be done within a period of one year.”

Prasad said there are certain issues which more needed clarity. “One of the major decisions taken today was the defence needs on the borders of India has been recognised. Within 50 km of India’s border, we have demarcated as defence interest zone. In peace time the telecom operation that we will do we will intimate defence. That is the infrastructure,” he said.

“In operation times those will come under their jurisdiction. In fact in the event they will be seeking to conduct it in a manner that may impact the existing telecom operations in a city within that 50 km they will have to take the permission of the government of India.”

Prasad, however, said there are certain issues in nine slots where some more work is needed.

“Therefore, 31 slots are those where defence use has to coexist with other usage. Like space, broadcasting, civil aviation and others.”

However, no decision on the reserve price of the 3G spectrum was taken.

India’s telecom regulator Jan 15 said the reserve price of third generation (3G) spectrum was what it had recommended but sought that sufficient spectrum should be available in the 2100 megahertz (MHz) band otherwise the auction’s purpose will be defeated.

The TRAI Dec 31 had recommended a base price of Rs.2,720 crore per megahertz for 2100 Mhz band as against pan-India reserve price of Rs.3,500 crore per MHz in the 2010 auction of 3G spectrum.

The next round of spectrum auction in 800, 900, 1800 and 2100 megahertz (MHz) will start from Feb 25.

The last date for submission of application by the telecom service providers is Feb 6.

In December 2015, seven licences each of Idea Cellular and Reliance Communications, four licences of Bharti Airtel and six licences of Vodafone will complete their 20-year term after which they should be renewed.

 

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