DoT to seek finance ministry’s nod to refund Rs 6,724.51 crore to BSNL
By Parvina Purkayastha - Mon Oct 01, 12:28 pm
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Telecom Secretary R Chandrasekar said that the telecom department will seek finance ministry’s approval to refund Rs 6,724.51 crore to loss-making state-run telco BSNL before re-selling its surrendered broadband wireless airwaves in six regions.
The telecom department feels BSNL’s demand for an early refund is justified since they shelled out a higher price for wireless broadband frequencies in the 2.5 GHz band, which were linked to the auction-discovered price of more expensive spectrum in the 2.3 GHz band.
“DoT in-principle supports BSNL’s request for a refund as it has paid more, but it will consult the finance ministry on whether this can be done before the surrendered broadband wireless airwaves are resold in a future auction,” said Chandrasekhar.
The telecom secretary conceded that the refund could stand deferred till the next fiscal if the finance ministry insists on “prior sale of surrendered airwaves in the 2.5 GHz band,” since such an auction would only happen after April 2013.
After BSNL’s Wimax plans backfired, the cash-strapped telco offered to relinquish its broadband wireless airwaves in six regions – Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kolkata, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh – last December since the allotted frequencies are not commercially suitable for launching fourth generation (4G) services on the LTE or ‘ long term evolution’ platform. BSNL had shelled out Rs 8,313.8 crore for these airwaves in 20 circles, and the value of surrendered frequencies in the six circles is pegged at Rs 6,724.51 crore.
Company executives aware of the development said BSNL wants to initially launch 4G services in these six lucrative telecom markets on the LTE platform, and accordingly, wants to swap its allotted wireless broadband spectrum with frequencies in the 2.3 GHz band, which is more commercially suited to the LTE technology platform.
“We’ve told DoT we want to surrender our broadband wireless access spectrum in six circles and retain the rest,” said BSNL’s chairman & managing director R K Upadhyay.
BSNL is learnt to have made a strong pitch for migration to the 2.3 GHz band as the rollout will be cheaper since the global LTE ecosystem is developing faster around these wireless broadband frequencies, coupled with the fact that these airwaves were allotted to private 4G permit-holders like Bharti Airtel, Infotel Broadband, Qualcomm, Tikona and Augere.
The state-owned carrier, however, is undecided on building its 4G strategy around the 700 MHz band, which is considered thrice more efficient than the 2.3 GHz band that was auctioned in 2010. The government is yet to set a firm date on the 700 MHz auctions, which is planned sometime in 2014.
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