Private operators balk at BSNL’s 3G roaming terms

12 Jan 2011

Privately-owned mobile network operators have reportedly turned down the option of sharing the third generation network of state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), according to India’s Economic Times. The decision by the private cellcos to reject BSNL’s sharing offer is understood to have come following disagreements regarding the pricing for access, while complaints were also made about the terms of any potential agreement. One such criticism stemmed from the fact that any deals would have only covered inter-circle roaming; such a term would mean that while customers signed up to a private cellco’s own 3G services could roam in those circles covered by the deal, the mobile operator would not be allowed to sign up new customers in those circles to 3G services using BSNL’s frequencies. In terms of costs meanwhile, BSNL had set the base price for bids for 3G roaming at 2.92% of the fee it paid for 3G spectrum in each respective circle; an example cited by the report highlighted that this would mean annual fees of INR455 million (USD9.9 million) per year for permission to roam in the Karnataka circle. Operators, however, would be required to sign up for the full 17-year duration of BSNL’s licence, meaning the total financial commitment for that circle would be INR7.8 billion.

The decision by BSNL to offer roaming services over its 3G network follows in the footsteps of fellow state-owned operator Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL). However, as previously reported by CommsUpdate, MTNL has arguably had more success in this area, with it reported in December 2010 that two private operators had submitted bids to share its 3G infrastructure in the Mumbai and Delhi circle. The two operators have since been confirmed as Tata Teleservices and Aircel.