Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2011: S-Band Spectrum Scandal

S-Band Spectrum Scandal

Indian Space Research Organisation's deal hatched in secret and sought to be covered up over a period of six years to launch two customer-specific satellites gave away 70 MHz of high-value S-band for unfettered commercial exploitation at a scandalously low price of just over Rs. 1000 crore to a private company, Devas

Multimedia Private Limited.

The agreement relates to two customer-specific satellites, GSat-6 and GSat 6 − A, which ISRO is contractually committed to design, build, and launch in order to make available to Devas the S-band spectrum for commercializing a range of multimedia, broadband services across India.

As mobile voice and data traffic increases, wireless operators around the world will require additional spectrum. However, as a finite public commodity, few bands remain available for new allocation to mobile wireless services and even fewer exist for global harmonisation of wireless spectrum assets. The 2.6 GHz band is one exception. The 2.6 GHz band (2500 − 2690 MHz), sometimes also referred as the 2.5 GHz band, was allocated by the World Radiocommunication

Conference (WRC) in 2000 for terrestrial mobile communications services. The band provides an opportunity to meet rapidly rising demand for capacity to deliver mobile broadband services on a widespread, common basis across the world.

According to a preliminary estimate by the Comptroller and Auditor General of

India, whose search for the relevant documents within the Department of Space has been actively obstructed, the presumptive loss of revenue to the government in the event of the Antrix-Devas deal going through now would exceed two lakh crore rupees (approximately $44.4 billion).

ISRO failed explicitly to inform the Union Cabinet that GSat-6 and GSat-6A were customer-specific satellites that would be predominantly used for a novel and commercial application developed by Devas Multimedia in association with global experts.

Among the concerns registered by the CAG in its process of enquiry were the following: S-band spectrum was being given away without inviting competitive bids; organisational control systems were not followed; the Prime Minister's

Office, the Cabinet, and the Space Commission were not properly informed about the contract details; public resources were being diverted to building two customer-specific satellites; and the contract terms deviated from the terms of previous contracts entered into by ISRO and Antrix.

The deal has been annulled.

Courtesy: The Hindu and Times of India