The Department of Telecom has sent a communication to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) seeking its opinions on the issue of allocating 4G spectrum to state-owned BSNL outside auction under a preferential equity infusion route, according to IANS.
According to a Supreme Court judgement, spectrum cannot be allotted to any operator on preferential basis, it can only be sold through auction only. "Any disposal of a natural resource for commercial use must be for revenue maximisation, and thus by auction, is based neither on law nor on logic," the apex court had said in its verdict on auctions and airwaves in 2012.
As per the agency report, the telecom regulator will now study whether state-owned telecom companies could be exempted from the rule set by the apex court.
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) needs approval from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for 4G spectrum, though it is providing 4G services using new Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) in some circles. At a time when telecom companies, like Reliance Jio and Airtel, are set to launch 5G services in India, the government is yet to allot 4G spectrum license to the miniratna company which it had sought in 2017.
In a letter to TRAI, the DoT sought its views if 4G spectrum can be given to BSNL outside auction as the government entities do not participate in the bidding process, IANS quoted official sources as saying.
Cash-strapped BSNL, which operates all across the country, except Delhi and Mumbai, has been reportedly seeking 5Mhz of 4G spectrum on 2100 Mhz band. It eyes to acquire 4G spectrum worth about Rs 13,885 crore, the agency reported.
The loss-making telco was in news last week after it failed to pay February salaries to its 1.76 lakh employees as it is going through its worst financial crisis due to stiff competition in the telecom market. The company later used internal accruals of Rs 850 crore to clear the February salary. The total income of the company at Rs 25,070.64 crore in FY18 stood around 38 per cent below the its peak of Rs 40,176.58 crore in FY06. Its revenues fell around 21 per cent in 2018.
BSNL leads wireline market with a share of 52.31 per cent. Reliance Jio's impending fibre to the home (FTTH) foray is expected to impact the company's wireline business. The company has seen a continuous fall in its wire-line subscribers base over the last 59 months.
Edited by Chitranjan Kumar