December 8, 2011 1:16:03 am
The government is considering an offer from Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited to surrender some Broadband Wireless Access spectrum as the state-owned operator strives to bring back stability to its deteriorating finances. The telecom secretary,R Chandrashekhar,on Wednesday said the Department of Telecom had in principle agreed to the proposal. But it was yet to decide the terms on which the operator would return the spectrum. BSNL has asked for a refund of the amount it paid for the airwaves.
The operator felt the price it had paid for the spectrum was far higher than it had expected. Chandrashekhar said: We have held preliminary discussions on the proposal. It was decided that it merited further consideration.
The company suffered a loss after tax of Rs 6,384 crore in the twelve months to March 31,having lost Rs 1,822 crore a year earlier. Airwaves in more than 14 of the operators 20 BWA service areas could be returned,Chandrashekhar said. But an auction of the spectrum would not be possible before March. We have to see that because BSNL has different band of BWA and it is unlikely to be auctioned this fiscal.
BSNL said it wanted in return a refund of the amount it paid for the spectrum. But Narender Gupta,regulatory expert at Bharti Airtel,said the government had not paid back private-sector operators like his. In the past,whoever has surrendered spectrum has not been refunded for the remainder of the contract period, he said. Gupta said Airtel had not been paid back for airwaves it had estimated to be worth Rs 150 crore.
The other state-owned operator,Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited,is also seeking to mend its balance sheet. A K Garg,its new chairman,said MTNL would try to convert assets into liabilities and was concerned over its land bank.
If the land is… not earning anything and there are high taxes on it,we must seek to monetise it, Garg said.
He said,however,that the view was his own and ruled out any sale of property.
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