Raja raps defence min for delay in 3G

Telecom Minister A Raja has opened a new front. Even as he accuses the former communication minister of wrongdoing on the BSNL 45.5 million tender, he has now taken on the defence ministry over delays in vacating spectrum.

While the defence establishment has called for caution before releasing additional spectrum towards for commercial telephony, Mr Raja’s ministry has point-blank told the defence ministry that its troposcatter methodology of using spectrum was highly inefficient, unreliable and was an obsolete technology that has been discarded globally.

The communications ministry has also said that the global trend was to replace wireless links between fixed locations with physical medium like the optic fibre cable and has added that this would enable the services to have a more secure network, better signal quality and carry higher traffic. Besides, the ministry has also asked the armed forces to take a look at international practices followed by countries such as the US, UK, France and Germany.

In a move that will intensify the ongoing tussle between the two ministries, the DoT has pointed out that in the UK, the armed forces had voluntarily surrendered spectrum in the GSM 900 Mhz and GSM 1800 Mhz frequency bands which was then reframed for other services while in Germany, the forces have moved to higher frequency bands after surrendering spectrum in the GSM 900 and 1800 bands.

The DoT has also added that the US had transferred over 200 Mhz spectrum from federal (mostly defence) to commercial use through the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act while adding that French army had given up nearly 350 Mhz of spectrum in these frequency bands in phases after an agreement was reached between the defence and spectrum managers in 1991.

At present, India’s telecom operators are unable to roll-out third generation services such as high-speed internet on mobiles, interactive gaming and mobile TV as the frequency bands in which these services operate are occupied by the defence forces. The expansion of 2G services in several key circles have also hampered due to non-vacation of spectrum by the armed forces.

At the same time, Mr Raja has also asked his ministry to work directly with the armed forces to solve this problem. He has entrusted the Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC) wing, the national spectrum management agency to work with the Joint Communication and Electronics Staff (JCES), which coordinates the spectrum needs of the services, to help the latter vacate frequencies in 1700 Mhz — 2000 Mhz bands.

Additionally, Mr Raja has also informed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that since this exercise would take about three months to complete, the first meeting of the Group of Ministers constituted to look into the ‘vacation of spectrum and raising resources for the purpose’ had been postponed to September, by which the time the WPC and the JCES would complete their joint project.