The government on Thursday assured Rajya Sabha that public sector telecom companies BSNL and MTNL will not be shut down and efforts are being made to revive them soon. Replying to supplementary queries during Question Hour, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said as part of a revival plan for BSNL and MTNL, there will be optimal utilisation of land and other assets of these companies.
“We consider BSNL and MTNL as strategic assets, as they have come to the aid of the people during natural calamities. There were problems in these companies, but we will revive them soon. “Don’t be under this impression that BSNL and MTNL will be shut down. We have infused a revival package in them and I assure you that these companies will not be shut down,” he told the house.
The minister said the revival package contains the core of optimal utilisation of the assets of these companies.
“Appropriate asset monetisation are recovering from other companies are part of the revival package. We will make optimal use of the land and other assets of BSNL and MTNL while reviving them,” he said.
In his written reply, Prasad said pursuant to policy formulated by the government to permit sharing of infrastructure by Telecom Service Providers (TSPs), Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) are also monetising their tower assets by permitting sharing of their towers with other TSPs.
“Accordingly, some of their towers, apart from being used by BSNL and MTNL are also leased to other TSPs viz Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, etc. Similarly, BSNL and MTNL are also using towers taken on rent from other telecom and infrastructure service providers.
“Out of 13,146 mobile towers shared by BSNL, 8,363, 2,779 and 1,782 mobile towers have been shared with Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea respectively. Out of 402 mobile towers shared by MTNL, 137, 100 and 165 mobile towers have been shared with Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea respectively,” the minister said. Prasad said BSNL and MTNL have informed that Rs 167.97 crore and Rs 11.62 crore respectively are outstanding from Reliance Jio. To recover the dues, the matter is being regularly pursued by both BSNL and MTNL.
“No fixed income has been transferred from BSNL/MTNL to Reliance Jio,” he said.
Minister of State for Telecom Sanjay Shamrao Dhotre said as per the revival package, BSNL has been allotted 4G spectrum from April 1 and 4G technology would be fully implemented within 19 months.
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Dhotra, however, admitted that there are some shortcomings in these companies and the government is making efforts to remove them. To a suggestion from Shiv Sena member Sanjay Raut that if the government is unable to recover the outstanding money from other telecom companies then he is ready to offer his services, Prasad said, “It is an encouraging suggestion and will keep it in mind.”