Facing reality

Staff Writer
24 Aug 2010

Employees at Indian telco BSNL are threatening to walk off the job if the government does not fully refund the $4 billion the state telco has paid for 3G and broadband wireless access spectrum.

BSNL claims it had no choice but to pay for 3G and BWA spectrum in all of its 20 circles since the government reserved it this.
BSNL commercially launched its 3G services in February 2009.

Compare that to India's private operators which only bid on 3G spectrum in April-May, but won't see the spectrum until September.

Moreover, big cellcos including Bharti Airtel were dreaming of a national 3G coverage. But these hopes were dashed as auction prices skyrocketed because only three or four licenses were up for grabs per circle.

It is not as if BSNL was done over on price - its 3G and BWA spectrum prices were benchmarked against private operators' winning bids.

It's time BSNL - and sister firm MTNL, which operates in Mumbai and Delhi - began competing on a level playing field and became more commercially-minded.

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