The defence ministry has agreed to release 5 MHz of spectrum in the 2100 MHz band used for 3G services in 17 circles, a top official in the department of telecommunications said on Thursday, adding that talks are under way for release of another 15 Mhz spectrum in the same band through a swap agreement with the ministry.
The additional spectrum will be available by March or April. “We expect 5 MHz in the 2100 MHz band to be vacated by defence. The rest 15 Mhz, which is to be swapped with other bands, mainly 1900 Mhz, will also happen but it will take time,” the official said.
The spectrum vacation will require Cabinet’s approval, the official said indicating that the government may go ahead with 3G auction with 5 Mhz in the next round to be held in February.
However, FE has learnt that after telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad met defence minister Manohar Parrikar to resolve issues on November 17, DoT has formally delineated a proposal on swapping spectrum in a draft Cabinet note on November 26.
The defence ministry has agreed to the proposal on the ‘defence interest zone’, which will facilitate the swap. An announcement to this effect is expected once the Cabinet approves the measure formally, may be sometime later this month. In that scenario, another 15 Mhz of spectrum in the 2100 Mhz band would be in DoT’s kitty, which would brighten the chances of a big bang auction for all spectrum together — in the 900, 1800 and 2100 Mhz, as desired by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). DoT has already asked Trai to expedite the base price recommendations for 3G spectrum.
The DoT official also said the telecom commission at its meeting on Tuesday has finalised the base price of R3,693 crore per MHz for the premium 900 MHz frequency band, which is about 23% more than R3,004 crore per MHz proposed by Trai.
Similarly, for 1800MHz, the panel recommended the base price at R2,191 crore against R2,138 crore recommended by Trai. The commission’s recommendations are based on pricing recommended by DoT’s committee.
At least 184 MHz of spectrum in the 900 MHz band and 104 MHz in 1800 MHz, which includes 78 MHz spectrum, will be auctioned in February. The commission has also finalised a base price of R3,646 crore per MHz for the CDMA band, nearly 17% higher than R3,104 crore suggested by Trai.
Auction of spectrum in 900MHz and 1800 MHz band would be held for 18 and 20 telecom circles respectively, while the 800MHz band used by CDMA operators will be on pan-India basis.