DoT seeks TRAI opinion on BSNL 4G spectrum

18 Mar 2019

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has sought the view of sector watchdog the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on the possibility of assigning 4G spectrum to state-backed provider Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) outside of an auction, the Economic Times reports. A 2012 Supreme Court decision ruled that all natural resources – including spectrum – may only be sold through a public auction, but the TRAI has been asked to determine whether government-owned entities could be exempted from the rule. BSNL has steadily fallen behind its privately-owned rivals in recent years, and the price war sparked by the launch of Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio) in late 2016 has only deepened the operator’s financial crisis; indeed, the company was forced to delay salary payments for its workforce last month due to cash-flow issues. BSNL sees the long-delayed introduction of 4G services as essential to its recovery and has requested 5MHz of 2100MHz band spectrum, worth around INR138.9 billion (USD2.0 billion). BSNL has suggested an up front payment of 50% of the cost via an equity infusion, whilst the remaining 50% would be paid in ten equal instalments.