Telecom dept mulls sale of fibre assets built for BharatNet

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Published: February 22, 2019 2:38:46 AM

However, industry sources said that DoT may not be able to find any takers in the industry easily because there could be duplication in areas where the fibre is laid, meaning telcos may be having their own fibre network in those areas.

Telecom dept mulls sale of fibre assets built for BharatNetTelecom dept mulls sale of fibre assets built for BharatNet

With hardly any takers for the 2.5 lakh kilometre fibre laid by the government under the BharatNet project, the department of telecommunications is now considering either selling the assets or leasing it out on long-term basis to private telcos.

Sources in the DoT said that the telecom commission has given an in-principle approval to a proposal for sale or lease of the fibre assets.

However, industry sources said that DoT may not be able to find any takers in the industry easily because there could be duplication in areas where the fibre is laid, meaning telcos may be having their own fibre network in those areas.

Further, since the focus of BharatNet was to connect gram panchayats with fibre connectivity, which is like a last mile connectivity, for telcos it would not be of priority area to begin with. Telcos may be interested in only revenue generating areas to start with, which are urban centres.

Currently, the 2.5 lakh kilometre fibre is mostly in rural areas where the demand for data is not that huge.

“The proposal was that the whatever fibre assets have been created should be offered on lease to the private sector through an open auction bidding basis for a 20-year period. The idea was that out of 24 pairs of fibre, four pairs would be retained by BBNL and the remaining 20 will be offered to the private sector through auction,” the official said. Under the project, 24 pairs of fibre have been laid.

The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) has been asked to work out all the leasing options and outright sale of fibre assets and come back to TC within 10 days.

Meanwhile, the telecom commission on Thursday also deliberated on the revival of BSNL and MTNL but no decision was taken.

The DoT feels that BSNL and MTNL, which operate in the strategic sector, have a strong asset base and that makes restructuring the most viable option for revival.

The DoT feels that voluntary retirement under the Gujarat model is a good option for staff of both the firms. It feels that most of the employees will be happy to take a retirement under the proposed model. BSNL has got around 1.76 lakh staff whereas the number for MTNL is 22,000. Around 60% of BSNL’s revenues go into wages while 85-90% of MTNL’s revenues are utilised for paying salaries to staff.

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