The government's efforts to revive financially stressed Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. continues. The telecom department will shortly waive nearly Rs 102 crore of microwave royalty and satellite spectrum charges payable annually by BSNL, according to an internal note.At present, BSNL pays Rs 96 crore annually as royalty to DoT's wireless planning cell for microwave-based connectivity across the seven northeastern states. In addition, it pays nearly Rs 6 crore as satellite spectrum charges to Indian Space Research Organisation ( ISRO) for satellite-based coverage in the remote border districts of the Northeast, Ladhakh and the Andaman and Lakshdweep archipelagos. The telecom department has asked the Wireless Planning & Coordination (WPC) wing to "exempt BSNL from payment of both royalty charges for point-to-point microwave links and satellite spectrum levies" with immediate effect, the note shows.The moves are aimed at incentivising BSNL to step up telecom penetration in these regions, especially after Telecom Regulatory Authority of India ( Trai) recently recommended a comprehensive expansion of landline and mobile coverage in the Northeast.These will be in addition to the government support that loss-making BSNL has received for paying staff salary. An empowered inter-ministerial group had recently asked DoT to give concessional loans to the state-run telco to help it pay a portion of its staff salary bill, which is likely to touch Rs 14,000 crore in 2013-14.A top BSNL official said the "royalty waiver had been sought" as the company is compelled as part of its social obligation to go for expensive microwave links to provide both landline and mobile coverage in these hilly regions, which are ill suited to optic-fibre connectivity".
The latest sops come at a time when differences have arisen between the telecom department and Planning Commission over waiving satellite bandwidth charges to BSNL for sprucing up telecommunications in the strategically located Andaman and Lakshdweep islands.While DoT has urged the Department of Space to waive such payout, the Planning Commission wants the Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF) to reimburse the state-run telco for such costs. "The USOF was created to provide telecom connectivity in rural and inaccessible areas, and should ideally reimburse BSNL for satellite bandwidth charges," says the Planning Commission in a related note.Telecom Commission, the highest decision making wing of the communications ministry, is likely to take a final view on this shortly.
<courtesy :-Economics Time>