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DoT refers BSNL 4G spectrum to TRAI under pressure

IANS  |  New Delhi 

The has sent a communication to the sector regulator TRAI seeking its views on the possibility of giving spectrum to BSNL outside auction under a preferential equity infusion route.

This is being done in view of the earlier judgement that all natural resources be sold through auction only. The regulator will now examine whether government controlled entities could be exception to the rule set by the apex court.

In a communication to TRAI recently, the DoT sought its views if spectrum can be given to BSNL outside auction as the PSUs do not participate in the bidding process, official sources said.

In 2012, in a landmark judgement, the apex court had said all natural resources should be sold through bidding for maximistaion of value.

BSNL currently has 5Mhz of spectrum on 800 band . But for an all scaling- up of service roll out , it needs at least a cumulative 10Mhz radiowaves. In Rajasthan, the PSU will use 4G spectrum which it has on 800 band as per the plan.

Sources added DoT will abide by whatever views TRAI will give "but let's see what the regulator says".

Digital Communication Commission, the inter-ministerial panel had advised to DoT to take the comments of TRAI on this issue in view of the judgement that spectrum can not be allocated to telecom service providers without auction.

BSNL, which operates all over sans and Mumbai, has been seeking 5Mhz of 4G spectrum on 2100 band for which it had sent a proposal approved to DoT. It intends to acquire 4G spectrum worth about Rs 13,885 crore.

The mechanism suggested by BSNL is: 50 per cent payment will be done upfront and rest 50 per cent will be made in 10 equal instalments. The upfront payment that BSNL wants is to be met through the equity route where government will be given preferential equity in lieu of the spectrum valued at Rs 6942.5 crore.

TRAI's views may take at least one-and-a-half months, sources said, adding therafter it will be easier for DoT to convince the if TRAI gives go-ahead for this move. The has been seeking the usefulness of such huge capital infusion in BSNL so has the Niti Aayog.

BSNL currently going through its worst financial crisis and it recently sought government's support to pay February salary of its employees. The company is banking heavily on the TRAI's positive comments.

A draft report of IIM-Ahemdabad also suggested government to give 4G spectrum to BSNL to survive in the hyper competition . BSNL offers 2G and services has 11 crore mobile subscribers and gets a number of government projects from which it draws revenues . But post entry in the sector, cut-throat competition has made private telcos lose profits and consolidate to survive.

Keeping BSNL afloat has become more challenging with the absence of a full bouquet of services. After Jio, it is the only operator which has been adding subscribers but not enough to generate revenues since these subscribers are from low voucher category.

The PSU though was the fast entrant in the fast emerging revenue opportunity of FTTH (Fibre-to-the-Home ) segment, without proper planning, it lost the edge to which entered much later. The PSU's enterprise services another money minting business has also seen sluggish growth. For the year 2017-18, the PSU posted a loss of about Rs 8000 crore.

--IANS

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(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, March 17 2019. 13:12 IST
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