State-owned Indian telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has reportedly offered to hand back its Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) frequencies to the state, according to LightReading. The report cites BSNL chairman and managing director RK Upadhyay as saying: ‘We have written to the Government that we would like to surrender the BWA spectrum. Under the rural initiative we are running a service to connect Common Service Centers (CSC) using WiMAX technology, which we can continue to do for the Government.’ The report suggests that one reason for the potential spectrum surrender is the decision by a number of other operators to opt for deployments of Long Term Evolution time division duplex (LTE TDD) technology; BSNL’s BWA spectrum is in the 2.6GHz band, which is thought to be unsuitable for the 4G technology, although it is suitable for LTE frequency division duplex (LTE FDD). Further, should BSNL opt to rollout LTE technology it is suggested that it could cannibalise its own existing CDMA EV-DO-based mobile broadband services. Should BSNL see through such plans to return the spectrum it remains to be seen whether fellow state-owned operator Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) will follow suit.
As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, BSNL was handed a 20MHz block of BWA spectrum in August 2008 for all of its circles of operation. The operator was, however, informed that it would be required to match the highest bids from private operators when auctions for similar spectrum finally took place. With the country’s long-delayed sale of BWA spectrum concluding in June 2010, and with the telco facing financial difficulties, BSNL that month requested an extension on the deadline for it to pay the fees it owed for the spectrum. On the basis of the price-match, BSNL is required to pay INR83.14 billion (USD1.66 billion) in total for its BWA spectrum.