Business Today

BSNL asks govt to take back BWA spectrum biz

As all major private telecom companies are betting big on the rollout of the fourth-generation technology, BSNL wants to return the BWA spectrum in 17 of 22 circles as it finds it commercially unviable.

Sanjay Singh   New Delhi     Last Updated: October 17, 2011  | 10:49 IST

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(BSNL) was offered 2.4 gigahertz, a poor quality band, on which the state-owned telecom company was told to operate the outdated and isolated WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) service.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.

SPECIAL:RK Upadhyay BSNL's last hope

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
  • Pvt telcos negotiated with the govt for efficient 2.3 gigahertz band of BWA BSNL was offered poor quality 2.4 gigahertz for operating outdated WiMAX
  • BSNL's plans to rollout WiMAX-based services through a franchisee model could not take off
  • BSNL will continue with rural WiMAX services
  • Refund of amount seems a remote possibility as it is already credited to the Consolidated Fund of India
  • BSNL is the only Indian telco that had committed to the WiMAX technology for its BWA services
BSNL has been surrounded by controversy regarding the award of WiMAX franchises after its own investigations revealed that five of the six shortlisted firms were acting as fronts for certain individuals. The corporate details of these firms showed uncanny similarity. Under pressure from its labour unions, BSNL was forced to scrap the tender.

The shortlisted companies were - WiExpert Communications, Spectrus Communications, SV Telecom Systems, Technotial Infoways and Digitelco Communications. It was later awarded to four other companies.

However, there has been hardly any progress in launching full-fledged WiMAX services.

Industry sources said manufacturers of WiMAX equipment have not been able to market their equipment worldwide over the past few years as the telecom industry has moved on to more current technology compared to the WiMAX, which was rolled out in 2001.

BSNL is the only Indian telco that had committed to the WiMAX technology for its BWA services even though all other winners of these airwaves had decided to opt for the upcoming LTE technology platform for their 4G services. The advantages of LTE are high capacity, low latency, plug and play facilities, mass adoption, lowest cost per bit, improved end-user experience and simple architecture resulting in low operating costs.

Courtesy: Mail Today

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