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Stalemate on 3G spectrum continues; FM meets Raja, Antony
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The auction of 3G (third generation) licences could be delayed, as the Defence Ministry is firm that it does not have any idle spectrum to vacate as being claimed by the Department of Telecom (DoT).

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee met Telecom Minister A Raja and Defence Minister A K Antony yesterday in an effort to resolve the issue, highly placed sources said, adding that there was no consensus on the spectrum slots to be auctioned.

"DoT has said that they have 3G spectrum but the Ministry of Defence is not accepting it, as they are saying the radio frequency is being used by them and cannot be vacated," senior DoT officials said.

The meeting, chaired by Mukherjee, was also attended by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar, Sam Pitroda, Advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on infrastructure, innovation and information and telecom, defence and finance secretaries, they said.

Mukherjee, Raja and Antony are likely to meet again tomorrow. This, however, could not be confirmed.

Pitroda is understood to have made a presentation and submitted a working paper on different frequency bands which can be vacated by the defence, but the latter was not convinced, they said.

The auction of 3G spectrum was scheduled to commence on January 14 next year and the government has estimated a revenue of about Rs 35,000 crore from sale of spectrum in the current financial year.

Telecom Minister A Raja had written two letters to Mukherjee seeking his intervention to get the spectrum vacated from the Defence Ministry.

On Defence Ministry's claim that they had released two slots of 3G spectrum but the same was not disclosed by the DoT, the officials denied any such development, and feared that a continued deadlock may force the country miss the auction deadline once again.

In fact, foreign telecom companies stayed away from the pre-bid conference called yesterday to discuss the blueprint for 3G (third generation) mobile spectrum auction, while domestic players were riddled with doubts regarding regulation and availability of airwaves.

All existing domestic players - Airtel, Vodafone Essar, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices and new licensees like Unitech Wireless, Shyam Sistema, STel, Etisalat DB were present, but there was no certainty about their participation in the auctioning process.

Leading players - Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar - have sought clarity on policy matters, including about the impact of the pending TRAI recommendations on 3G spectrum auction and chances of increase in number of slots for auction in circles if defence ministry releases spectrum.

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