While private telecom players negotiated with the government for the efficient 2.3 gigahertz band of broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum in early 2010, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) was offered 2.4 gigahertz, a poor quality band, on which the state-owned telecom company was told to operate the outdated and isolated WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) service.
3G triples BSNL's losses to Rs 6,000 cr
Now, when all the major private telecom companies that won the BWA auction last year are betting big on the rollout of the fourth-generation (4G) technology - technically known as the Long Term Evolution (LTE) and which is slated to be launched globally early next year - BSNL wants to return the BWA spectrum in 17 circles of the total 22 circles for which it holds the license as it finds it commercially unviable.
The loss-making telco has offered to surrender its BWA airwaves to the government after its plans to rollout WiMAXbased services through a franchisee model could not take off.
"It is not commercially viable. The band offered to BSNL may not be suitable and technically does not match with the equipment available in the market. WiMAX lobbies may have been responsible for pushing it to BSNL. BSNL will be a single company on WiMAX platform and will face isolation in interoperability and roaming arrangements," said a top telecom industry official.
BSNL's chairman and managing director R.K. Upadhyay was not available for comments.
"Our losses have already touched around Rs 6,000 crore for the last fiscal. We paid over Rs 8,313 crore for accessing BWA airwaves last year. We have sought for the refund (of this amount) so that we can now concentrate on our landline, broadband and mobile services. But we will continue with rural WiMAX services," said a top BSNL official.
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The refund of the amount however, seems a remote possibility as the amount is already credited to the Consolidated Fund of India.
According to industry sources, BSNL being a PSU may have been pushed to accept the redundant airwaves - 2.4 gigahertz of BWA spectrum - which interferes with other bands, is not a clear band and does not effectively work for WiMAX services.
SPECTRUM OF LOSS