“BSNL executives met defence minister Rajnath Singh today, and sought the government’s support to accelerate commercial 4G deployment by state-run telecom company, and facilitate the release of its Rs 38,000-crore dues pending with the telecom department (DoT),” a senior telco executive said.
The Sanchar Nigam Executive Association (SNEA) that represents as many as 11,000 BSNL executives, led by president Aftab Ahmad Khan, general secretary K. Sebastin, and assistant general secretary Rajendra Kolapkar in an interaction with Singh, emphasised on the need for a continued support from the Centre, and highlighted issues plaguing the BSNL’s turnaround.
The executives sought the minister’s intervention to release Rs 38,000-crore dues from the telecom department on account of surrendering of broadband wireless spectrum (BWA) and pension contribution, and asked for an extension of 2G license, and redressal of human resource (HR)-related issues.
Further, the group handed over a memorandum to the minister, and also asked for capex support to launch 5G network at par with private sector service providers, expedite land monetisation process to clear debts, and waive license fee and adjusted gross revenue (AGR), as well as opposed any move to sell BSNL-owned mobile towers and optic fiber network.
Singh is one of the members of high-level Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted by the Centre to oversee the implementation of Rs 69,000-crore revival package for financially-stressed BSNL and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL).
Earlier this week, the Minister of Communications Ashwini Vaishnaw informed the Lok Sabha that the state-controlled telco has completed the trials with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS)-backed consortium, and would soon roll out much-awaited 4G services.
Meanwhile, BSNL has issued a purchase order (PO) to procure 40-watt radio equipment for 6,000 telecom sites at a cost of about Rs 550 crores, to immediately deploy 4G network at selective locations ahead of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, an initiative to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of country’s progress on August 15, this year.
“I am happy to inform you that the 4G telecom network is ready for roll out soon and it is developed in India by Indian engineers and scientists. Our development of 4G network is being appreciated worldwide and it has a core and radio network with full telecom equipment,” Vaishnaw said.
State-driven Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) has developed core network indigenously, and plans to upgrade BSNL’s 4G network to 5G non-standalone (NSA) mode by the end of 2022, and to standalone (SA) network by next year.
Bengaluru-based Tejas Networks, now acquired by Tata group, is a radio network partner for the state-controlled telecom service provider.
BSNL employee groups have been demanding the rollout of BSNL’s commercial 4G services so as to compete with private sector rivals such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea (Vi), and prevent subscriber erosion following the absence of a high-speed data network.
State-run telecom operators — BSNL and MTNL — have close to 10% market share while the three private players dominate the sector with nearly 90% of the market pie.