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DoT to auction three 3G blocks in all but two telecom circles
Two blocks each to go under hammer in Rajasthan and Northeast.The department of telecommunications (DoT) is planning to auction three blocks of 3G wireless spectrum in all circles, except in the Rajasthan and northeast ones, where it would auction only two blocks each.

This means three private operators would be given frequency to start their operations in every circle, barring the northeast and Rajasthan.

Denying the defence ministry’s claim that only 10 MHz of 3G spectrum was available for auction, scheduled for January 14, the department said: “DoT does not agree with the defence ministry that the entire 60 MHz spectrum in the band 1920-1980 is with it and only 10 MHz of 3G spectrum released on signing of MoU is available for auction.”

In a note prepared for a meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on the subject, which is likely to happen tomorrow, the department said it is the custodian of spectrum and by its records, which were reconciled with the defence ministry in April 2007, 3G spectrum in the 1920-1980 MHz is available for commercial use, which can be assigned for 3G services.

“Good auction practice requires that only spectrum that is available should be auctioned or else the auction may result in discounted bids, causing revenue loss to the government,” the note said.

The note prepared by DoT would come for approval before the EGoM, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Communications minister A Raja, Home Minister P Chidambaram, and Defence Minister A K Antony are also part of the EGoM, that was constituted to resolve the spectrum issues between DoT and defence ministry. The differences between the two have already delayed the 3G auction by over a year. 3G auctions were originally scheduled for December 2008.

The government had, in August 2008, already allotted 3G airwaves to telecom PSUs BSNL and MTNL. MoD has released 10 MHz of 3G spectrum in the 1969-1979 band over and above the frequency issued to BSNL and MTNL.

By DoT records, 15 MHz of 3G spectrum is available in Delhi and Rajasthan circles, while Mumbai has 30 MHz, Kolkata has 50 MHz, Chennai and Tamil Nadu circles have 60 MHz each and so on.

MoD was supposed to release 25 MHz of spectrum by December 7, after the Cabinet approval for an alternate optical fibre network for the military to be installed at a cost of Rs 9,175 crore. However, despite the approval on December 3, MoD did not release the 25 MHz of spectrum, due to which DoT was unable to release notice inviting applications (NIA) on December 8, the note said.

The EGoM had, in its second meeting in August, decided to auction four blocks of spectrum. In its third meeting, it had decided the defence ministry would release 25 MHz of spectrum by December 7 so that the auction could be conducted on schedule.
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