On the second day of the government-appointed inter-ministerial meeting to assess stress in the telecom sector, state-owned BSNL and MTNL presented their sets of demands. BSNL, which has got pan-India operations barring Delhi and Mumbai, urged that it be allotted the prized 700 MHz spectrum that is used for 4G services via the equity route and sought a moratorium on the payment of licence fee for revenue earned from government projects. MTNL, which provides services only in Delhi and Mumbai, on the other hand, sought government help in making Rs 8,000-10,000 crore capital available citing the tariff war being fought by private operators. It also sought urgent measures to bring down its employee cost.
Both the firms have been in losses for the past several fiscals and have bloated wage bills — 99% of revenues for MTNL and 50% for BSNL. BSNL also wanted a two-year moratorium on payment of licence and spectrum usage charges for projects implemented in northeastern states as well as in left-wing extremism areas. Essentially, BSNL wants the revenue from such projects to be excluded from overall licence fee calculation. It has also sought compensation of Rs 1,520 crore for CDMA spectrum it surrendered earlier.
MTNL pointed out that private operators are being supported by their promoters. “The war between the operators is being fought on the strength of capital so the government should not be found wanting in its support in capital provisioning,” MTNL CMD PK Purwar said after the meeting. He added that the high employee cost — a tab of Rs 2800 crore — is creating a “non-level playing field” for MTNL viz-a-viz private operators. It urged the government to look at options like voluntary retirement scheme to bring down employee expenses.