Cabinet discusses auction, vacation of 3G spectrum

New Delhi, Nov 19 ( The government Thursday discussed the issue of allocation of third generation (3G) spectrum as well vacation of airwaves by the defence ministry for commercial use, but declined to divulge details.

“The cabinet discussed the issue but I am not authorised to give any details,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters after a cabinet meeting under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Earlier in the day, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had angrily refused to answer a question from the media about the outcome of a meeting of the Group of Ministers on the spectrum allocation issue.

“Why should I tell the media?” Mukherjee burst out when asked what decision has been taken at the meeting held at the finance minister’s chamber in Parliament House.

Besides Mukherjee and Soni, the meeting was attended by Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Law Minister Veerappa Moily, and Communication and Information Technology Minister A. Raja.

Following the finance minister’s outburst, an apprehensive-looking Raja tried to calm him by assuring: “I have not invited the media.”

The issue of the exact radio frequency to be released by the armed forces and the timing of the vacation has long been an issue of contention between the defence and the communications ministries.

Earlier this month, the finance minister said he hoped the two ministries would reach a consensus on vacation of third generation (3G) spectrum by the armed forces.

“I do hope the decision will be taken as per the letter and spirit of the memorandum of understanding,” Mukherjee said at the annual Economic Editors’ Conference here Nov 3 when asked about the delay in spectrum vacation.

The finance minister was referring to the agreement signed in May between the defence ministry and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) outlining the roadmap for the vacation of radio waves or spectrum.

As for the much delayed 3G spectrum auction, the DoT last month announced it would be conducted in four stages — invitation of the bid, pre-qualification, auction, and finally the grant of spectrum.

The auction was initially scheduled for December, but may have to be postponed.