No revenue loss in S-band spectrum, contract being reviewed: Government (Second Lead)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

NEW DELHI - The government Tuesday denied there had been any revenue loss from the spectrum allocation of radio waves used for satellite communication and said the controversial contract by the Indian space agency to a private company was under review.

Space department Secretary K. Radhakrishan Tuesday said the contract between Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) commercial arm ANTRIX to Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd in allocation of space segment using S-band was under review “and a decision in public interest will be taken soon”.

“No revenue loss has been caused because of the decision” to allocate space segment using S-Band spectrum to ANTRIX or Devas, he told reporters at a media briefing jointly with Planning Commission member K. Kasturirangan here.

Earlier, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Tuesday in a statement denied there had been any revenue loss. “It is clarified that no decision has been taken by the government to allocate space segment using S-Band Spectrum to ANTRIX or Devas. The question of revenue loss does not arise,” the statement said.

It added that the PMO has seen reports alleging loss of government revenue in a contract entered into by ANTRIX and Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd on lease of space segment capacity that would use S-Band Spectrum.

The space department portfolio is looked after by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Reports quoting the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) indicated that an alleged deal between ANTRIX and Devas has caused the nation an estimated loss of Rs.2 lakh crore.

The CAG is probing the agreement between ANTRIX and Devas, according to which Devas was allegedly given the high-value bandwidth at throwaway price without competitive bidding by the ISRO.

The PMO said: “Any such reports are without basis in fact”.

“The Comptroller and Auditor General’s office and the Department of Space have already issued statements, stating the factual position on the matter.”

In its statement Monday, the CAG clarified that media reports on the alleged scam cannot be seen as its findings.

The probe relates to the allocation of S-band frequency, also known as 2.5 Ghz band that is globally used for providing mobile broadband services using fourth generation technologies such as WiMax and Long Term Evolution.

The PMO statement came amid a fresh political controversy with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties demanding a probe into the reported CAG estimate of losses.

The BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad, hitting out at the government, said: “Spectrum is a national asset and when they are given to an organisation like ISRO, they are trustees for the spectrum and they cannot alienate it by transfer or lease in any other way.”

As per the deal under the scanner, Devas is to get unbridled access to 70 MHz - megahertz, units of frequency - of the scarce S-band spectrum over a 20-year period.

This spectrum was once used by state-owned Doordarshan for satellite transmission to all parts of the country.

It is now considered to be of enormous commercial value for high-speed, terrestrial mobile communications.

In 2010, the union government got nearly Rs.67,719 crore from the auction of just 15 Mhz of similar airwaves for 3G mobile services.

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