The government is likely to sanction Rs5,000 crore for the defence services to speed up the creation of a secure optical fibre communication network in the upcoming union budget to speed up the release of about 45 Mhz of wireless spectrum that the forces are sitting on for commercial use, according to unconfirmed but generally reliable reports.
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), the state-run telecom company, had been mandated last year to set up the alternative network. The cabinet has already approved a spend of Rs9,175 crore on the project. This includes Rs1,077 crore for an Air Force network and Rs8,098 crore for Army and Navy networks.
Officials involved in the discussions have reportedly said the additional project cost of Rs5,000 crore has been cleared by an inter-ministerial group and the provision will be announced in the budget for 2012-13.
The increase in the project cost was sought by BSNL after the defence services imposed stringent conditions.
The Telecom Commission, the highest policy-making body of the department of telecommunications (DoT), approved the cost escalation in November. The matter was then referred to an inter-ministerial group, which apparently has also approved it.
According to DoT estimates, auctioning just 50 per cent of the 45Mhz that the forces hold can bring in at least Rs85,850 crore to the exchequer that is constantly struggling to meet the government's demands for subsidies, social schemes, and general fiscal profligacy.
The availability of more spectrum could also help improve customer services; but this is probably not the government's priority in sanctioning the amount.