BSNL’s offer to hand back BWA frequencies accepted in-principle by DoT

8 Dec 2011

India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is understood to have accepted an offer from state-owned telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) to return broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum in most regions of the country, according to local news source The Economic Times. The report cites telecoms secretary R Chandrasekhar as saying: ‘BSNL has given a proposal to surrender BWA spectrum in some parts of the country. That proposal was considered and in-principle, it is considered acceptable, provided the details are worked out.’ Mr Chandrasekhar did, however, note that BSNL had ‘yet to finalise the number of circles where it wanted to exit the BWA business’, with elements such as the cost of the concessions and whether the telco has deployed infrastructure understood to be key determining factors for which licences BSNL will hand back. Should the details of the spectrum hand-back be finalised, it is widely expected that the government will look to launch a fresh auction process for the newly freed-up frequencies. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in May 2011 the Indian government revealed that it expected to make around 160MHz of BWA-suitable spectrum in 2012, and the spectrum that could be handed back by BSNL could be included in this sale.

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, it was first revealed that BSNL could surrender its BWA spectrum back in October 2011, with local press at that date citing 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 suggested that one reason for the potential spectrum surrender was 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 has been suggested that it could cannibalise its own existing CDMA EV-DO-based mobile broadband services.