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3G spectrum winners can use it only after June
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The ambiguity over availability of 3G (third generation) telecom spectrum would end soon, as the ministry of defence has agreed to release 25 MHz of 3G spectrum before December 8, paving the way for auctioning of all the four slots in every circle simultaneously. But, the successful bidders in the auction would be able to utilise the spectrum only after June 2010, despite the auction process happening on schedule in January.

“We will ensure the winners in the 3G auction start using spectrum only after June 2010…as the armed forces would need time to shift operations which might be possible only by June 2010,” DoT Secretary P J Thomas said in a letter dated November 18 to defence secretary Pradeep Kumar. In the order to release the 25 MHz of spectrum in the 1920-1980 MHz band, the defence ministry had asked for timely completion of the Optical Fibre Network by BSNL, which has been duly addressed, the telecom secretary said.

DoT has instructed BSNL to complete the alternate optical fibre network for the armed forces (army, navy and air force) in three years instead of the earlier three and a half years. DoT would circulate a Cabinet note on this next week. The OFC network, estimated to cost Rs 10,000 crore, would be implemented as a mission-mode project with BSNL chairman and managing director Kuldeep Goel as mission director and one representative each from the defence and DoT on the team, the letter added.

The Telecom Commission would meet on November 23 to consider the detailed project report for laying an alternate OFC network.

The decision was apparently also approved by the EGoM (headed by Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee) meeting on November 19, which had met to resolve differences between DoT and MoD over vacation of spectrum. Prior to this, a meeting under Sam Pitroda, adviser to the Prime Minister, was held with DoT and ministry.

This would remove all uncertainty over the auction process, already delayed a couple of times. The government expects to rake in Rs 35,000 crore from the sale of 3G, to be used to reduce the fiscal deficit.

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