State-owned telecom firms BSNL and MTNL have narrowed their losses and reduced liabilities in 2020-21, Parliament was informed on Thursday. In a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Communications Devusinh Chauhan submitted that the loss of BSNL narrowed to Rs 7,441 crore in 2020-21 from Rs 15,500 in 2019-20. MTNL also reported a total loss of 2,554 crore for the last fiscal year, compared to Rs 3,811 crore in 2019-20, Chauhan added.
“The government approved a revival plan for BSNL and MTNL on October 23, 2019, which is under implementation. BSNL and MTNL have turned Ebitda positive during 2020-21,” Chauhan said. Ebitda stands for earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.
The government offered a combined revival package of around Rs 69,000 crore to BSNL and MTNL, which included a payment outgo for employees of the two companies opting for voluntary retirement service (VRS). A total of 92,956 employees (78,569 for BSNL, 14,387 for MTNL) opted for VRS, which reduced salary expenditure by about 50 per cent in BSNL and by about 75 per cent in MTNL.
The government provided sovereign guarantee of Rs 8,500 crore and Rs 6,500 crore to BSNL and MTNL, respectively, that they utilised the funds to retire existing high-cost debt. The data shared by Chauhan showed that total liabilities of BSNL have come down to Rs 81,156 crore in 2020-21, from Rs 87,618 crore in 2019-20. The total liabilities of MTNL has reduced to Rs 29,391 crore from Rs 30,242 crore between the reported fiscal years, the data added.
BSNL,however, lags in terms of mobile towers compared to its private sector competitors.
According to the data shared in the Rajya Sabha, BSNL has 1,53,628 base transceiver stations (BTS) and MTNL has 4,242 BTS. The country’s largest mobile player Reliance Jio has 9,30,390 BTS, which is six times more than the number of BTS of the public sector firms. Airtel has 6,22,087 BTS, which is four times, and Vodafone Idea has 5,29,529 BTSs which are over three times compared to mobile antenna sites of BSNL and MTNL combined.
BSNL and MTNL’s combined subscriber base share declined to 10.31 per cent in 2020-21, compared with 10.64 per cent as on March 31, 2020.