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Govt. To Meet On 5G Trials, BSNL & MTNL Revival Plan Today

Digital Communications Commission, erstwhile Telecom Commission, the highest policy-making body of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), will meet Thursday to decide on crucial issues including 5G trials and revival package for the ailing telecom PSUs, BSNL and MTNL.

Another key issue that will need some clarity is the participation of Chinese player Huawei in the 5G trials. Telecom industry has asked the government to decide on this issue, as many players are working with Huawei for 5G.

Once the approval comes, the spectrum will be allotted for three months, wherein specific India use cases will be developed by network equipment makers in partnership with telecom players.

CRUCIAL ISSUES

  • Another key issue that will need some clarity is the participation of Chinese player Huawei in the 5G trials
  • A committee set up by DoT had estimated the economic impact of 5G services to be over $1 trillion and it would be critical for various segments of the society

The government plans to conduct a spectrum auction, including for 5G, in this calendar year, while trials for 5G will start in next 100 days, the new communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on June 3.

The commission will also consider Trai’s recommendations on spectrum auction.

However, incumbents, including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, have raised concerns over the high reserve price of 5G spectrum and the financial stress of the industry, and hence they want the auction to happen next year.

A DoT committee recently cleared the proposal to allow Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio conduct 5G spectrum trials next month for a period of three months. For these trials, equipment vendors Samsung, Nokia and Ericsson have been selected.

Globally, South Korea, North America, Japan and China are expected to start 5G operations in the next one to two years. It is expected that the commercial launch of 5G services will happen by 2020 in India. 5G will be critical to the government’s various ambitious projects – smart cities and Digital India. A committee set up by DoT had estimated the economic impact of 5G services to be over $1 trillion and it would be critical for various segments in the society, including agriculture, education, public safety and disaster management, among others.

Other than this, the government will also discuss the revival package of BSNL and MTNL. A VRS proposal for Rs 6,365 crore for BSNL and around Rs 2,120 crore for MTNL has been given to the government for consideration. Also, both the firms have asked for allotment of the 4G spectrum without paying the auction price.

While BSNL is awaiting approval for its land asset monetisation, a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) for both BSNL and MTNL and allotment of 4G spectrum are a key part of revival plans. Both the PSUs have been incurring losses since 2009-10. Due to hyper-competition and a huge employee cost, the expenditure of both firms has hit the roof while revenues have nosedived. For BSNL about 55% of its expenditure goes into paying employee salaries as it has a huge base of 1.76 lakh employees across India. For MTNL, staff salary constitutes around 99% of the total expenditure.―DNA India

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