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Participation of BSNL, MTNL in spectrum auction may lead to conflict of interest, warns DoT


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Participation of BSNL and MTNL in spectrum auction may create efficacy and fairness related apprehensions in the telecom industry and lead to conflict of interest, Union Minister Sanjay Dhotre informed the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

He was citing a letter of Department of Telecom (DoT) to the Solicitor General of India on the matter of allocation of spectrum to BSNL.

The government is planning to hold next round of spectrum auction in April-May this year. The auction will also include radiowaves for 5G services. A draft cabinet note has been prepared in this regard by the DoT.

“DoT is of the view that BSNL and MTNL being public sector undertakings, their participation in the auction conducted by the Government for allotment of spectrum may perhaps create unwarranted apprehensions in the telecom industry related to efficacy and fairness of the auction process.

“It may also lead to a situation of conflict of interest,” the Minister of State for telecom and IT said in written reply to the House.

The government in October 2019 approved a relief package for BSNL and MTNL which included capital infusion of around Rs 20,000 crore excluding GST payable for allocation of spectrum for 4G services.

Besides 4G spectrum, BSNL has asked the government for pan-India spectrum for 5G services.

The DoT is now gearing up to auction spectrum worth Rs 5.22 lakh crore around April-May.

The Digital Communications Commission has approved reserve price recommended by telecom regulator Trai but it will be placed before the Cabinet for the final approval.

“A Draft Cabinet Note (DCN) has been prepared for the auction of the spectrum. The DCN is under consideration in the Department. The spectrum acquired through auction, as being held from time to time, is permitted to be used in a technologically agnostic manner. The successful bidders of the spectrum auction can deploy mobile services using any technology including 5G,” Dhotre said. 

Significantly, India TV had reported last month that BSNL was unlikely to be part of the 5G spectrum trials, with senior officials telling us at the time that the management of the PSU was more concerned over sorting out the voluntary retirement of its staff members than bidding for 5G spectrum.

“The voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), part of the government’s revival plan, is aimed towards bringing the company back in the black by retiring workers who are more than 50 years in age. More than 78,000 staff members of BSNL opted for voluntary retirement last month, constituting almost half of the total 1.59 lakh employees,” it had been reported.

ALSO READ: BSNL likely to stay out of 5G trials

(With PTI inputs)

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