India’s Telecom minister on Wednesday announced a $20.5 billion package to revive state-run telecom provider Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL), in a move to help the loss-making firm compete better with private rivals.
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The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a Rs 1.64 lakh crore package for the revival of state-owned telecom firm BSNL, Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said.
The revival measures approved by the Cabinet focus on fresh capital for upgrading services, allocating spectrum, de-stressing its balance sheet and augmenting its fibre network by merging Bharat Broadband Nigam Ltd (BBNL) with BSNL.
Briefing reporters on the decision taken by the Union Cabinet, he said the package has a cash component of Rs 43,964 crore and a non-cash component of Rs 1.2 lakh crore spread over four years.
The government will make administrative allocation of spectrum BSNL needs to offer 4G services. The spectrum allocation in the 900/1800 MHz band at the cost of Rs 44,993 crore would be through equity infusion.
He said to meet the projected capital expenditure for the next four years, the government will fund Capex with Rs 22,471 crore for developing a 4G technology stack.
Also, the government will provide Rs 13,789 crore to BSNL as viability-gap funding for commercially unviable rural wireline operations done during 2014-15 to 2019-20.
Rs 33,404 crore statutory dues will be converted into equity to de-stress the balance sheet. Besides, the government will provide a sovereign guarantee for raising money to repay current loans.
To facilitate wider utilization of infrastructure laid under BharatNet, BBNL will be merged with BSNL, he said.
The infrastructure created under BharatNet will continue to be a national asset, accessible on a non-discriminatory basis to all the Telecom Service Providers.
The Minister said the Union Cabinet also approved a project for saturation of 4G mobile services in uncovered villages across the country at a total cost of Rs 26,316 crore. He added that the project would provide 4G mobile services in 24,680 uncovered villages in remote and difficult areas.