Cabinet ends 8-year sharing stalemate, earmarks spectrum for defence (Roundup)

New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) The union cabinet Wednesday ended an eight-year-long dispute of spectrum sharing between the defence and telecom sectors by earmarking bands for exclusive use of the former while also specifying use of remaining airwaves for civilian purposes in areas such as civil aviation and space.

The Cabinet Committe on Economic Affairs (CCEA) also approved four-laning of two key national highway sections in Jammu and Kashmir.
Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the media after a cabinet meeting that nine slots will be for exclusive use of defence in between 3 MHz and 40 gigahertz.
“Today, I met (Defence Minister) Manohar Parrikar with our officials and discussed the matter. This matter (spectrum swapping) was pending for eight years. Defence released 5 MHz of 2,100 bands for telecom usage,” Prasad said.
“This shows the manner in which our government takes effective decisions,” he added.
Prasad said spectrum was mainly used by defence, communications, space, civil aviation and information and broadcasting.
“We had to take a balanced view of all these things,” he said.
The telecom ministry had earlier proposed to exchange 15 Mhz spectrum it holds in the 1,900 Mhz band with same quantum of airwaves held by the defence ministry in the 2,100 Mhz. The 2,100 Mhz band is used for 3G telecommunications services.
“Swapping of 15 MHz in the frequency band of 1,900 MHz with the telecommunications has been permitted,” the minister said.
Regarding “harmonisation” of defence band between telecom and defence, Prasad said: “The band in the 1,700-2,000 MHz is required to be harmonised. The cabinet has approved that this harmony must be done within a period of one year.”
Prasad said there were certain issues where more clarity was needed.
He said the area within 50 km of India’s borders will be demarcated as defence interest zone.
“In peace time, the telecom operation that we will do, we will intimate defence. In operation times, those will come under their jurisdiction,” he said.
Prasad, however, said there were certain issues in nine slots where some more work was needed.
“Therefore, 31 slots are those where defence use has to coexist with other usage. Like space, broadcasting, civil aviation and others.”
However, no decision on the reserve price of the 3G spectrum was taken.
India’s telecom regulator Jan 15 said the reserve price of third generation (3G) spectrum was what it had recommended but noted that sufficient spectrum should be available in the 2,100 megahertz (MHz) band otherwise the auction’s purpose will be defeated.
The TRAI Dec 31 had recommended a base price of Rs.2,720 crore per megahertz for the 2,100 Mhz band as against pan-India reserve price of Rs.3,500 crore per MHz in the 2010 auction of 3G spectrum.
The next round of spectrum auction in 800, 900, 1,800 and 2,100 megahertz (MHz) will start Feb 25.
The CCEA also approved the four-laning of the Ramban-Banihal and Udhampur-Ramban sections of the national highways in Jammu and Kashmir.
Work on the projects would be done under the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) Phase-II.
The estimated cost of the Ramban-Banihal section will be Rs.1,623.98 crore which includes cost of land acquisition, resettlement, rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities. The total length of the road will about 32 km.
For the Udhampur-Ramban section, the cost is estimated to be Rs.1758.68 crore and the length is 40.07 km.
The projects will provide all-weather-connectivity from Jammu to the Kashmir Valley.