Wary of snooping, govt to allot alternative frequency in border areas

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New Delhi | Published: December 24, 2014 12:44:24 AM

After having failed to convince Pakistan to realign its WLL network that is interfering with 3G services being offered...

After having failed to convince Pakistan to realign its WLL network that is interfering with 3G services being offered by telecom service providers as well as defence communications in the same band in bordering areas, the telecommunications ministry, as a short-term measure, will provide alternative frequency to telcos as it fears snooping at its network.

As a matter of concern for the armed forces, DoT has prepared a list of six areas bordering Pakistan and covering states like Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh (including Dharmshala and Dalhousie) where 3G spectrum under 1969-1974 MHz and 1974 -1979 MHz bands could be facing interference with Pakistan’s WLL network, which operates in the same band.

However, a DoT official explained that the exposure of armed forces through 3G MHz band could be minimum as it has already given away 20 MHz of 3G spectrum for commercial use, and the government is apprehensive that the leftover 5 MHz of the 3G band which remains with it may be susceptible to snooping.

DoT in an internal note has asked the department concerned to investigate possible snooping of communications of the armed forces on 5 MHz of 3G band in areas bordering Pakistan.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India early this month wrote to DoT asking it to take up the issue on external interference of 3G services with the Pakistan government through the ministry of external affairs (MEA). Trai said the government may resolve the matter in accordance with International Radio Regulations.

Sources said if the issue is not resolved bilaterally, then India has the option to involve the International Telecommunication Union – a UN body.

The matter was earlier taken up with Pakistan in 2011 after Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications and Aircel complained to DoT that they were facing severe interference in 3G services in areas bordering Pakistan. The Indian government had asked it to reduce the power of its BTS antenna to mitigate interference of signals or reduce the height of the BTS antenna.

However, two years later, the Pakistani government communicated to India that it has already instructed CDMA operators in the country offering WLL services “to adopt appropriate mitigation techniques in order to curtail the spillover of signals along border areas so that 3G services of India and WLL services of Pakistan can co-exist in an interference free environment,” according to DoT.

However, DoT has taken Pakistan’s claim in this regard with a pinch of salt.The government believes such interferences may be exposing defence and private telcos on the Indian side to snooping by Pakistan.

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