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Raja seeks FM's help to usher in 3G services
Holds the defence ministry responsible for slippage in the auction

Communications Minister A Raja has held the defence ministry responsible for the slippage in the auction process for 3G spectrum and sought Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s help to clear the decks.

The defence ministry has decided to release only that amount of 3G spectrum which is to be auctioned, and that too in phases. In fact, the armed forces have not released spectrum already in use as envisaged in their agreement with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

“Because of the stand taken by the defence ministry, which is not plausible and against the decisions of the empowered Group of Ministers, there has been slippage in the original schedule of auction,” Raja wrote to Mukherjee.

“If this issue is not resolved quickly, I apprehend that the revenues anticipated from 3G auction may not be forthcoming this year,” he said.

Auction of 3G spectrum, which offers high-speed data and voice connectivity, was to have been completed by this year end, but the communications and IT ministry has not yet issued the information memorandum that lists eligibility conditions, rules of auction and the details of spectrum for want for clarity from the defence ministry.

“I request you to kindly intervene in this matter... So as to enable the 3G auctions to be completed during this year. You may also consider holding a meeting with Defence Minister A K Antony on the matter,” Raja requested Mukherjee.

While India struggles to embrace the next-generation mobile telephony, or 3G, the world has already moved to the next level of technology called ‘LTE’.

The government had projected up to Rs 35,000 crore collection from sale of spectrum in the current financial year, mainly from the 3G auction. But, going by the current pace, the process is likely to be delayed by several months.

The EGoM had decided to auction four blocks of spectrum in each circle (one block has already been allotted to two telecom PSUs) and had announced a reserve price of Rs 3,500 crore for pan-India 3G spectrum.

With the Ministry of Defence not releasing the radio waves, DoT has been unable to issue a revised schedule of auctions and information manual.

The DoT, Raja said in the letter, is anxious to ensure that these auctions take place at the earliest and certainly during the current year.

The minister, who was in Geneva earlier this month, had said that the global players had shown keen interest in participating in the auction. But if this was delayed beyond a point they may lose interest, causing huge financial loss to the government.

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