NEW DELHI: State-owned telecom company Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has sought fifth-generation or 5G airwaves even as the telco is yet to get 4G spectrum despite the Cabinet approval in October 2019.
“BSNL has requested the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to assign spectrum for 5G services on Pan India basis (except for Delhi and Mumbai),” the state minister for Communications, IT and HRD Sanjay Dhotre Wednesday said in Parliament.
However, the fourth-largest telco is yet to receive radio waves in the 2100 Mhz band to commercially launch 4G services in the back of consumers growing appetite for high-speed data services.
India’s private sector players— Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are readying their 5G strategies even as the 4G remains underutilised, and financial burden has snowballed following the top court ruling on the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR).
The department is also expected to auction airwaves later this week that would include 3300-3600 MHz band spectrum recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to launch 5G services.
Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad while announcing the Cabinet-approved rescue plan for the telecom companies said that 4G spectrum would be allocated administratively at 2016 prices to both operators.
“The said spectrum will be funded by the government by capital infusion in these public sector undertakings at a value of Rs 20,140 crore in addition; the GST amount of Rs 3,674 crore to this spectrum value will also be borne by the government through budgetary resources,” the government in a statement said.
However, BSNL chairman PK Purwar earlier said that he expects the government to allocate 4G frequencies by March this year.
On October 23, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi-headed Cabinet has approved the Rs 70,000 crore worth of ambitious revival plan for two state-driven telcos— BSNL and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) which also advocated a merger between the two.
MTNL that operates only in Delhi and Mumbai metropolitans is a listed entity and the two companies have a wage disparity.