India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has rejected a plea by state-owned operators Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) for a refund of payments the duo made towards third-generation spectrum. According to India Today, a statement from an unnamed source at the regulator regarding the matter noted: ‘There was a clear understanding between DoT, BSNL and MTNL that they would have to match the auctioning price of 3G offered to private operators. The government may now decide to support them so that they can build infrastructure for 3G. But this should not be linked to refunds against 3G spectrum fee. They have already paid the spectrum fee. There is no way they can claim refunds in this regard.’
For their part both BSNL and MTNL have however claimed that they were in effect not given any choice regarding whether they wished to acquire 3G spectrum, with the pair also arguing that the same holds true for the broadband wireless access (BWA) concessions that they were also awarded prior to the auction of such licences to private players.
The Union Cabinet is expected to consider the matter sometime within the next week, but it is believed that it remains unlikely either of the telcos will obtain the refunds that they are seeking.