The Union Cabinet has approved ₹1.64 lakh crore package for revival of state-owned telecom company, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL). Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that the package has three elements such as to improve services, de-stress the balance sheet, and an expansion of fibre network.
While briefing reporters on the decision taken by the Union Cabinet, the minister said the government will make administrative allocation of spectrum BSNL needs to offer 4G services, as reported by PTI.
Further, he said to de-stress the balance sheet, ₹33,000 crore statutory dues will be converted into equity. Meanwhile, a similar amount of bank loans will be repaid through the issue of low-interest bonds.
Also, the minister said that Bharat Broadband Network (BBNL) will be merged with BSNL.
BSNL has been making losses and struggling to win customers due to private telecom giants like Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea who have rolled out 4G services and led to a tariff war with aggressive trimming in data prices.
Currently, BSNL holds a network of more than 6.8 lakh kilometers of optical fibre cable (OFC) network. On the back of the proposed merger, the telco will be able to bag 5.67 lakh kilometer of optical fibre that is spread across 1.85 lakh village panchayats in India using Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
BBNL is a Special Purpose Vehicle and has been mandated to create the National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) in India to provide high-speed broadband connectivity to all gram panchayats. BharatNet, the world’s largest rural broadband project is to provide broadband connectivity to all the 2.5 lakh gram panchayats across India.
Where BSNL is yet to roll out 4G services, India is already preparing itself for 5G mobile services. Minister of State for Communications, Devusinh Chauhan in a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha on Wednesday said, the launch of 5G mobile service is likely during 2022-23 by Telecom Service Providers. The Department of Telecommunication has already initiated the process of Auction of Spectrum in 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz, 3300 MHz, and 26 GHz Bands which includes the Spectrum required for the launch of 5G Services.
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