June 30, 2008

Indian Defence and its Objections against 3G spectrum

Posted in Arms Conflicts tagged , , , , , , , at 9:21 am by zarb

India is a unique democracy, probably as unique as unique could get. A powerful judiciary, a free press, all very good. But will somebody please explain since when has India turned a demo-militia.  You think that is an exaggeration then why is the defence raising objections in commercial policy matters of the country? Will somebody please explain what is the defence’s problem in allowing the country to progress in the new global economy? Why isn’t spectrum being allotted to 3G services as per promises made by the Telecom Ministry?

Liberty, Air, Water and Spectrum – Our birth right

Let’s get this in perspective. Air, water etcetera we all know about. Did you know in the 21st century there is another element added if you wish to survive. The element is “SPECTRUM”.  While over 150 countries don’t have an issue about releasing spectrum for 3G services, the Indian Defence combined with other hurdles have a major issue with releasing spectrum. Consider this not even a dynamic and an absolutely brilliant minister like Dayanadi Maran has been able to get this job done.

Lal Tape Babugiri at its best

Passing the parcel. Guess who gets a gold in that. Your guess is as good as mine.
Can a policy ever be implemented without a committee of ministers, without some PSU’s though privatized (but the same old genes) creating nuisance.

The status so far is the Wireless Planning Coordination (WPC) panel apprised the Telecom Commission on the status of spectrum issues recently (last month). Defence had some objections.  There is also some hindrance from BSNL, MTNL etc. Last year, DoT embarked on a Rs 1,000-crore optical fibre cable project to enable the defence forces vacate spectrum for use by commercial cellular service providers. However, the Ministry of Defence is understood to have informed the DoT that it would require additional time, up to 390 days, to vacate the spectrum (includes 3G spectrum.)  390 days!  Will somebody tell them that 365 days make a year! Maybe 390 is a lucky number for them.

So the big picture is No Spectrum. Defence, BSNL and MTNL are playing passing the parcel. One says it’s because of  BSNL and MTNL’s failure to complete the alternative optic fibre backbone as per requirement. The other also has an argument. Arguments, arguments and more counter arguments. But no spectrum, no 3G services.

Promises are meant to be broken

Maran is an absolutely brilliant minister. This is probably the 3rd time I am writing about him in the last 3 years. He has brought about almost a revolution as far as growth is concerned. But he has hasn’t been able to deliver as far as this issue goes.

Flash back to May 2006. It was reported that the defence ministry will release 45 Mhz of spectrum by the end of last year (2006) for providing 3G services.   It’s a quarter after that deadline. I don’t see anybody using a 3G phone in India.

The Common Man

Who suffers? The common man. A whole economy that will be based on this spectrum policy. Rural India who will get access to wireless education, e-governance and perhaps much more. The young entrepreneurs of small metros who will use this for creating value added services to be sold globally.

The Last Word

Spectrum is our right as the citizens of this country.  3G is a necessity of our time. There maybe minor commercial issues about 3G per se but they are irrelevant as far as release of spectrum is concerned. 3G is required. Period.

An entire new economy will blossom once this comes into effect. It’s much bigger than any of us can imagine. Last year I had written as kids we played games Made in Japan. Kids in Japan will now download and play games made in Almora, in Bareilly and many such cities. The entertainment business is just a small fraction of the opportunities that this will open up. The future is here. Don’t deny our future. In support for releasing spectrum for 3G in India.

Puneet Mehrotra is a web strategist at http://www.cyberzest.com and edits http://www.thebusinessedition.com

Puneet Mehrotra, Hindustan Times , April 04, 2007


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