India’s telecoms minister Andimuthu Raja has reportedly called for state-owned operators Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) to be refunded monies paid for 3G and broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum. According to the Hindu Business Line, the minister has claimed that as BSNL is undertaking a social obligation by extending services to remote rural regions, noting in a letter to the Finance Ministry: ‘BSNL is the only service provider giving connectivity to the far-flung rural areas. The service rendered by BSNL in the rural areas cannot be replicated.’ The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) has also pointed to the New Telecom Policy of 1999 as a precedent; under that legislation BSNL was exempted from payment of 2G spectrum charges on the grounds that it offered rural and social services. It is, however, believed that the Finance Ministry will reject this latest request to waive the fee for fear that it could prompt private operators to make similar demands.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, both BSNL and MTNL were allocated 3G spectrum back in July 2008, and following the conclusion of the 3G and BWA auctions in May 2010 and June 2010 respectively the duo were required to match the final bid price of the winning private operators for each of their circles of operation.