The Department of Telecom has sought Cabinet sanction for INR 9,970-crore optic fibre communications network for the defence forces. The forces will release airwaves in a phased manner over the next three years and will migrate a bulk of their communication systems to this alternate network, being built by state-owned telcos BSNL and MTNL on behalf of the Communications ministry.
As per a Cabinet note, the alternate network of the Army will cost INR 1077.16 crore and that for the Air Force and Navy combined will cost INR 8,893 crore. The cost of these networks has come down by a third after the armed forces dropped their demands that DoT maintain these network for a 10-year period. Prior to the MoU, the Defence ministry had demanded an additional INR 5,730 crore for maintaining this infrastructure for the next 10 years. The standoff between the two ministries over this additional amount has delayed the project by over a year.
DoT sources said a bulk of the alternate network, especially that of the Air Force, was close to being completed and Cabinet sanction for the funds was vital to compensate BSNL for the project.
With the Defence ministry dropping its demand for 10-year maintenance, the DoT agreed to waive off the spectrum usage charge for the armed forces and has also agreed to the armed forces request to set up an exclusive defence band along the international borders.
At present, the defence forces occupy a bulk of 3G spectrum, vital for high-end used services like video conferencing on mobiles, high-speed Internet and fast downloads. But, after the signing of the MoU, the forces had agreed to vacate two blocks of 3G spectrum across the country.