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Defence min puts rider to release of 3G
‘Clear the proposal for laying of optical fibre network before Dec 7’.

The defence ministry has agreed to release 25 MHz of 3G spectrum in the 1920 MHz-1980 Mhz band before December 7, but with a pre-condition — the government will clear the proposal for laying of an alternative optical fibre network for the military before that date and create a monitoring mechanism for the project’s implementation.

The Telecom Commission is meeting tomorrow to clear the project, which also requires the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT’s) and the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs’ (CCEA) nod.

A settlement to nearly a year-long battle between the DoT and defence ministry over vacation of 3G spectrum was thrashed out between the DoT and defence ministry after an empowered group of ministers headed by Pranab Mukherjee met last week.

The DoT, in its information memorandum, has set December 8 as the date for issue of notice inviting applications for the 3G auction. The auction will begin on January 14.

With this settlement there will be no shortage of spectrum in any circle, with four slots being auctioned across the country. Earlier, there were only two slots available in Delhi, no slots in the North-East and Rajasthan and only one slot in West Bengal. One slot of 5 MHz has already been given to BSNL and MTNL across the country. After the defence spectrum is made available, the telecom circles will have spectrum ranging between 25 MHz and 60 Mhz.

In order the complete the optical fibre network project in three-and-a-half years, the Telecom Commission will circulate a note to the CCEA by November 26. The CCEA is expected to clear the project by December 3.

The defence ministry, however, says that as it would take some time to shift operations to the new network, the operators who win the auction in the 25 MHz band vacated by it (1954-1979) should be requested to start their operations from June next year only.

The expression of interest notice for the project is slated to be issued on December 7, while tenders for the project will be floated on February 15, opened on March 31 and finalised on June 30. The optical fibre cable has to be tested and commissioned by December 2012.

The project will be implemented in mission mode with the BSNL chairman as the mission director, and one member from the defence ministry and the DoT in the mission team. The progress of the project will be reviewed on an ongoing basis by the mission team and any variance in schedule will be resolved and solved immediately.

Also, every month the project will be reviewed by the telecom secretary and senior officials from the defence ministry and armed forces. While the high-level committee to monitor the rollout under the cabinet secretary, which is already in place, will review the project once in two months, the EGoM under Mukherjee will review it once a quarter.

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