Defence spectrum for civilian use likely soon: Pallam Raju

June 21st, 2008 - 11:20 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 21 (IANS) National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan is to adjudicate on the sensitive spectrum issue that could see the defence forces vacating idle radio frequencies for civilian communications like mobile telephony, Minister of State for Defence Pallam Raju has said. “Our national security cannot be compromised. But we also know that spectrum is scarce. We must do what is best for the nation,” said Raju, who was dealing with the subject as the chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT and Communications between August 2004 and January 2006.

“Some form of an MOU (memorandum of understanding) is being looked at by the NSA (national security advisor), which can be signed between the ministry of defence and the DOT (Department of Telecommunications),” the minister told IANS in an interaction.

“I guess it will be soon… In a couple of months,” he replied, when asked when the NSA will be able to find a solution.

A group of ministers, headed by then defence minister Pranab Mukherjee, had given Narayanan the mandate to find a way out to get idle spectrum with the forces vacated, while also finding a secure alternative and the funds to finance the same.

Raju, who holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s in business administration from the Temple University in Philadelphia, said the defence ministry was not averse to vacating some of the spectrum allotted to it.

He nevertheless maintained that the DOT and other agencies of the ministry also have to come out with the funds that will help in creating an alternative platform for the defence forces that is secure.

“It is important for the DoT to understand this and come out with solutions to create an alternative platform,” he said.

“The Universal Service Obligation Fund could be used for this,” the minister said, referring to the money which private sector telecom operators pay state-run telecom companies to ensure communications services in rural areas.

“I cannot understand why it is taking so much time,” added Raju, who has worked in the US and Norway before being inducted into politics by late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Raju’s father M.S. Sanjeevi Rao was a minister in Gandhi’s cabinet.

With India adding 8-10 million new mobile telephone subscribers to the network each month and gearing up for next generation telephony in 2009, radio spectrum availability has become a hot issue.

There are more than 500 applications from private companies pending before the government for allocation of frequencies.

Even the industry watchdog, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), has not been allowed to make any recommendation in this regard, even though frequency allocation has been the most contested subject by private telecom operators.

“Spectrum management and licensing are not in our domain at all. It is entirely and exclusively in the domain of the government and its departments,” watchdog chairperson Nripendra Misha told IANS.

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