NEW DELHI: Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi-headed Cabinet’s nod, the state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited’s (BSNL) revival has begun with the ambitious Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) which has been well received by nearly 100,000 eligible employees with 50 years of age. In an interaction with the PageOne, BSNL Chairman-cum-Managing Director PK Purwar said that the telco has got unprecedented support from the government, and is expected to launch commercial 4G services within the next six months. Liabilities of BSNL’s vendors, he said, would be honoured within next two-three months. Edited excerpts.
The market is already competitive. By when, BSNL is expected to launch full blown 4G services?
We’ll launch 4G services in next six months. Firstly— we are looking at upgrading the existing equipment. Secondly, we are also going for a tendering process which would though take a longer time. We will assess the market based on our desire to compete in that particular segment.
What is the expected capital expenditure on 4G network?
We are spending around Rs 12,000 crore over a period of 24 months on 4G network.
How many employees have opted for voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) till now?
More than 50,000 employees have applied for the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) in three days. It is a testimony of our staff’s trust and attractive nature of the ambitious scheme. We are expecting more than 75,000 workers to opt for VRS.
Some domestic firms say that due to locked outstanding by BSNL, they are struggling to survive and more than a lakh of jobs are at stake since they are finding it hard to pay staff wages?
It’s not as if BSNL, is not making payments. But, it’s a matter of delayed payment. BSNL always like to give comfort to all its vendors. All liabilities will be met 100%. We expect a breakthrough within the next 2-3 months on this.
Letter of Comfort worth Rs 3,300 crore is still undecided?
We are expecting to hear from the government on the revival strategy in a week’s time. Post that we’ll approach banks afresh. The much awaited relief package has brought positivity in the market.
How many land parcels have you identified as a part of phase – I of the assets monetisation initiative? Are you facing challenges in this area?
14 land parcels across the country have been identified and that can be monetised easily that are of a high value. We have sent a proposal the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for approval. The value of these assets come somewhere between Rs 7,000-8,000 crore. We are committed to overcome challenges, and getting full support from the government which is a best part.
We have got support from the government more than what was initially expected, and are ready to overcome challenges. We are looking forward to provide land assets to other government companies. BSNL assets are national assets. Opportunity should be given first to government-run company so that the process could be easier.
You also need money for network upgrade?
It is important to identify pain points and resolve issues in a targeted manner. Organisational efficiency, headcount trimming, cost effectiveness, making 4G services available, and reduction in debt as well as to raise resources to invest in networks are our priorities.
What are your efforts in the area of towers and fibre sharing?
We are proactively asking operators to share BSNL towers. We have 14,000 towers that are currently shared of the total 68,000 towers. We get Rs 36,000 per tower every month. We have recently approved a policy to lease out fibre network, and are allowing it to TSPs, ISPs and cable operators. We are looking at first three months, and then we will review it. There is also an Infrastructure Investment Trust (InviT) model to unlock value. Leasing is first priority for us and InviT is secondary.
Will you renew your focus on enterprise business?
In the next three months, we’ll overcome enterprise business challenges so as to reinforce trust of our enterprise customers.