Dept Of Telecom May Debar BSNL From LWE-II Connectivity Program

The Department of Telecom (DoT) is expected to prohibit state-controlled Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) in the ambitious Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) – II, despite telco’s lowest proposal and completion of the earlier phase in record time.

“The specifications of BSNL proposal are very different from the Cabinet-approved proposal for LWE-II and hence cost of BSNL proposal cannot be used for benchmarking the bid document,” according to a telecom department note, seen by ETT said.

The fourth-largest telco has submitted a proposal to deploy 4.072 towers, at a cost nearly 40% lower than the originally conceived but the note prepared by the department’s finance branch, apparently overlooked it, saying, “BSNL proposal will entail a lower grade of service with deficiencies.”

However, BSNL has led the previous leg or LWE-I to deploy 2,500 mobile towers to boost telephony in the Red Corridor, with completing the initiative in a lesser time than anticipated in 2016.

The ambitious initiative, being undertaken in coordination with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), is likely to be dragged further with USOF administrator-constituted committee, seeks to provide radio coverage up to four kilometers and has defined capacity to 20 watts.

Since BSNL operates in the 2100 Mhz range, the coverage, as per expects may fell short with the private sector operators having airwaves in the 900 Mhz would be more suitable. However, Jio is a pure-play 4G carrier.

The LWE extension program aims to deploy a reduced number of sites to 3465 towers across 10 states with a cost revision at Rs 1.45 crore per unit taking the price burden further to Rs 5,024 crores.

Earlier, the department’s group said that the “BSNL’s proposal for uncovered villages could be considered with few modifications that will result in savings up to Rs 5928 crore,” but the report has been pushed to backburner, after it was sent to the USOF for examination, which, in its new finding, blamed the telco.

The state-driven telco had proposed it at a cost of nearly Rs 5,800 crores with massive savings from the originally conceived project that has virtually cut down cost to Rs 78.23 lakh using both 2G and 4G technologies, from whopping 1.8 crores proposed by the USOF earlier.

The telco has though is still awaiting government’s nod to deploy 4G services but is piloting the high-speed data services on the 3G spectrum in the 2100 MHz band frequencies in few circles.

In addition, the note which is expected to be taken up by the inter-ministerial panel including Niti Aayog has no provision of preferred market access (PMA) to homegrown companies.

The Delhi-based Telecom Exports Promotion Council (Tepc), earlier sought the Narendra Modi government to allow price preference scheme in awarding government-funded contracts to domestic companies that would allow 20% price benefit over multinationals which provide backend equipment to telcos.

The Digital Communications Commission (DCC), a inter-ministerial group, is likely to take up the the matter in its Wednesday’s meet, and would also consider sector regulator’s views on upcoming spectrum auction in multiple bands including 700 MHz range, and revised detailed project reports (DPR) for Gujarat, Odisha, Maharashtra, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh under the state-led model for the implementation of BharatNet-II.―Business Telegraph

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