- BSNL is expected to finish 4G coverage in India within 18 to 24 months and the government has no plans to privatise the telco.
- Minister of Communications for state, Dhotre, noted that the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services issued by DoT now has been amended.
- BSNL, in January 2021, started providing 4G service in Bilaspur and Korba cities of Chhattisgarh.
Government-owned telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) expects to finish 4G coverage in India within 18 to 24 months and the government has no plans to privatise the telco, Sanjay Dhotre, Minister of State for Communications, in a written reply to the Lok Sabha said on Wednesday. BSNL had invited an Expression of Interest (EoI) on January 1, 2021, for prior registration or Proof of Concept (PoC) from Indian companies interested in participating in its upcoming 4G tender, he said.
"The licensed telecom service providers in the country are using diverse cellular mobile technologies viz., 2G, 3G, 4G and their combinations to provide voice and data services," Dhotre said, adding that the choice of technology for provision of telecom services are left to operators. "BSNL will follow the applicable rules, guidelines or public procurement orders of the government, including rule 144(xi) of the General Financial Rules, 2017, in this regard," he said.
Dhotre also noted that to streamline the process of internet shutdowns in the country, the DoT had notified 'Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017' in August 2017, under a section of the Indian Telegraph Act, which has now been amended. "Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency and Public Safety) Rules, 2017 has been amended vide Gazette Notification dated 10.11.2020," he noted.
Dhotre said the amendment regarding temporary suspension of telecom services, has been forwarded to all chief secretaries and administrators of states and Union Territories, emphasising that the Supreme Court has mandated the publication of suspension orders, and all orders for suspension of telecom services must adhere to the principle of proportionality and must not extend beyond the necessary duration.
"Acknowledging the role of internet in education, financial transactions, business, and overall economic well-being of the society but the fact cannot be denied that the social media platforms operating on internet are also being used by terrorists/anti-social elements to disseminate hate and violence thus disturbing the social harmony," he said.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had allotted the telco a fresh Pan India liberalised spectrum before the spectrum auction this year in March. BSNL, in January 2021, started providing 4G service in Bilaspur and Korba cities of Chhattisgarh. It is also giving free 4G SIM cards to users as a promotional offer. The free 4G SIM card scheme started with telecom circles in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and the offer is valid till 31st March 2021.
In October 2019, the Cabinet had announced a four-step revival process worth Rs 68,751 crore that included the allocation of 4G airwaves, voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), assets monetisation, and a merger plan between BSNL and MTNL telcos which was expected to finalise in 24 months. BSNL had started operating the mobile network of MTNL as its outsourced agency from January 1. However, a six-member Group of Ministers (GoM), in January, had stated that the merger of BSNL and MTNL is not feasible or beneficial for any party.
(with inputs from PTI)