The state-run telecom major Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) has issued a notice to the Maharashtra government to pay dues to the tune of Rs 5 crore as bill for the Mumbai WiFi service. The Mumbai WiFi project was rolled out on January 9 this year.
The state was to pay the MTNL on a quarterly basis for this and the first payment was due by May, 2017. Confirming the development, P K Purwar, Chairman and Managing Director of MTNL, told The Indian Express that the notice was issued as “payments were delayed”. “These are bilateral discussions between two government agencies. We have written to the Maharashtra government. We have billed them for the WiFi services that we are providing,” said the MTNL official.
V K Gautam, Principal Secretary (Information Technology), Maharashtra government, said, “We are paying the MTNL for their bandwidth.” Purwar, however, maintained: “We have not received the payment.” The state launched the free WiFi service connecting 510 hotspots across Mumbai under the smart city project. Mumbai WiFi costs Rs 194 crore and covers over 2,000 access points in the first phase and is executed by a consortium led by Larsen & Toubro (L&T).
Essentially, L&T is the system integrator while MTNL is providing bandwidth with a speed of 4 Mbps in its tie-up with the Maharashtra government, according to officials. Senior officials claimed that the MTNL is “refusing to accept any payment” from L&T, which reportedly attempted to pay the MTNL’s dues recently. “As per the tender floated, the Maharashtra government had informed MTNL that they required our services from January 9. We have an agreement with the Maharashtra government, not with any third party,” a senior official who did not wish to be named, said.
According to senior officials privy to the case, the Maharashtra government has to pay Rs 4-5 crore and the notice was issued by MTNL on May 5. “If there is a case of payments not being made, the bandwidth providers are always entitled to disconnection of services. If the issue is not resolved, MTNL would escalate the matter to the Union ministry of the Department of Telecommunications,” said a senior official.
According to official data, over the past five months, Mumbaikars, mostly in the dense suburban slums, have consumed 620 Terabytes of data off the free WiFi provided by the state government. That is the equivalent of roughly over five lakh movie downloads, officials explained.
The state was to devise a plan to monetise the services from February onwards. For any Mumbai WiFi user, the services would be free up to 100MB, after which users will be charged at rates yet to be finalised. “We are in the final stages of the pricing policy, it would be complete by May 18,” said Gautam.
Official data indicates that over 35 lakh Mumbaikars have logged onto the Mumbai WiFi, with nearly five lakh regular users. Colaba , Malad, Kandivli, Girgaum and Mulund are the top five hot spots by data usage.
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