An association of senior officials of state-owned BSNL has demanded a probe into the allocation of broadband spectrum to the company, saying that it is not standardised and is inferior to the one given to private telcos, despite having paid the same price.
In a letter to Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, Sanchar Nigam Executive's Association (SNEA) has demanded that BSNL be give the same spectrum as the one allotted to private telecom companies, or its money be refunded.
BSNL paid Rs 8,313 crore in June 2010 for the wireless broadband spectrum (radio waves) for 22 telecom circles in the country -- almost a year ahead of allocation to private telcos. It was asked to match the price of spectrum paid by the highest bidder in each telecom circle.
However, SNEA has said that BSNL's broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum, in the 2.6 Ghz band, was non-standard for the use of advanced technology - TDD-LTE (Time Division Duplex-Long Term Evaluation) - and services deployed in this band would be too expensive.
"The band that BSNL has been allocated is not at all technically compatible to offer services from potentially competitive upcoming LTE platform. Besides, incredibly huge investments are needed to procure equipment in this non-competitive redundant band," SNEA has written to Sibal.
TDD-LTE delivers BWA service at 100 Mbps - capable of downloading a Hollywood movie, which is generally around 700 MB, in 7 seconds.
SNEA has pointed out that the spectrum allocated to private telcos in the 2.3 Ghz band can be used for both WiMax and LTE services and it gives more area coverage compared to the spectrum allocated to BSNL.
Calling the move discriminatory, the association has requested the minister to re-allocate the spectrum to BSNL.
"Swift action is needed to relocate premium TDD band to BSNL that has been allocated to other service providers in keeping with policy of level playing field," the letter said.
"Alternatively, the exchequer should immediately refund Rs 8,000 crores it garnered from BSNL for award of obsolete BWA spectrum," the letter added.
The association has demanded probe into the decision of the BSNL management in accepting the BWA spectrum in the uncompetitive frequency band and then giving it to companies for WiMax services on revenue sharing basis, allowing non-existent telecom companies to roam on GSM (mobile) network of BSNL.
"All these decisions cannot be mere coincidences, but surely appear to be part of a well calibrated nexus," the letter said.