Armed forces 3G spectrum release faces delay

9 Feb 2009

In another blow to the much-delayed 3G auction process in India, the Economic Times is reporting that the Indian army is now claiming that it cannot release spectrum needed for commercial 3G services in a phased manner as had previously been agreed. The armed forces are in possession of spectrum which is expected to be vacated and then reallocated to successful 3G licencees. However, the defence forces now say that they will only release the frequencies after Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) completes the rollout of all three alternative networks for them. BSNL is due to complete new infrastructure for the Army, Air Force and Navy in 2011. The original agreement between the communications and defence ministries called for a phased vacation of the spectrum by the armed forces; with BSNL expecting to complete the Air Force Network (AFNET) by June this year the communications ministry called for the Air Force spectrum to be vacated by that date. It is understood that a group of ministers (GoM) will now consider the fate of the spectrum, ruling on whether the original phased release will be enforced. Additionally, the GoM will examine the case for funding the INR146 billion (USD3.02 billion) alternative networks, with the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) expected to clear the project’s funding only after it is endorsed by the ministers.