Trai official: No government reference on 4G airwave for state-run telecom firms.
BSNL and MTNL, which have a cumulative debt of Rs 35,000 cr, want 4G airwaves to compete with Jio and co.
NEW DELHI: The telecom regulator has not received any communication from the government seeking its view on allotment of 4G airwaves to state-run telecom companies Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone NigamNSE 0.42 % Limited (MTNL), a senior official said.
The comments of the senior official at the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) contradicts that of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) which last month said it has referred the 4G spectrum allotment matter to the regulator, following a decision taken by the Digital Communications Commission (DCC), the DoT’s highest decision-making body.
“We have not received any reference from the department of telecommunications (DoT) for providing recommendations on the 4G spectrum to BSNL and MTNL,” the official told ET, requesting not to be named.
The comment further clouds the matter of allotment of 4G spectrum to the loss-making state-run telcos, which have a cumulative debt of Rs 35,000 crore and have been seeking approval from the Narendra Modi-government to commercially launch 4G services to compete with private players such as RelianceNSE 0.24 % Jio, Bharti AirtelNSE 0.95 % and Vodafone Idea. Last month, BSNL employee unions, representing more than 170,000 workers, had threatened a three-day strike, with one of the reasons being the government’s indecision regarding giving 4G airwaves to the telco.
The telecom department has said that the regulator would recommend on the issue of administrative allocation of the 4G spectrum to the two telcos, quantum, price and appropriate frequency range.
ET’s query to DoT on the matter did not elicit any response.
BSNL has sought radio waves in the 2100 MHz spectrum for pan India operation except in the Rajasthan circle, while MTNL, which only operates in two metros, has asked for the 1800 MHz spectrum in Delhi and 2100 MHz in Mumbai.
The high-speed data services offering over the 4G network is also a part of the operators’ “revival strategy” in addition to the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), and asset monetisation, which is on the government’s table.
Following Jio’s commercial launch, Anupam Shrivastava-headed BSNL had sent multiple letters to DoT to allot the 4G frequencies under the preferential equity infusion route.
The telco, as per its board’s proposal, plans to pay half of the total cost of Rs 11,000 crore from the deferred payment option in 16 annual instalments.
“We want to launch 4G on 2100 MHz spectrum, currently being used for 3G services, and will not be incurring any spend on 4G equipment,” Shrivastava had said.