The defence may soon vacate 15 Mhz of high-speed 3G spectrum for commercial use as the telecom department has agreed to expedite allocation of a separate communication network for all the three forces — Army, Navy and Air Force — as promised in May 2009.
The move will ensure that the government can auction four slots of 2x5MHz contiguous 3G spectrum on a pan-India basis, fetching the exchequer around R25,000 crore. This would be in addition to the sale of spectrum in the 1,800-Mhz and 900-Mhz bands, to be held in January 2014, which would bring in an equal amount in revenue.
While telecom secretary MF Farooqui, in his meeting with defence secretary RK Mathur on September 20, assured that “he will personally monitor the progress of the 'network for spectrum' project”, the defence ministry is expected to examine “on priority basis” a spectrum swap proposal between the telecom department and the armed forces to free up 15 MHz of 3G airwaves in the 2,100-mhz band for commercial use.
The proposal is in line with a suggestion by Cellular operators Association of India (COAI), which lobbies for incumbent GSM operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular. A swap deal will also benefit mobile operators whose plans to offer pan-Indian 3G services was upset as the government barred them from getting into intra-circle roaming pacts with other companies. In 2010, seven mobile operators had won 5- MHz spectrum but none had won pan-India radiowaves.
DoT has also agreed to set up a steering committee to “formulate and promulgate revised and realistic timelines for fructification of project NFS”.