Loss-making BSNL wants to surrender broadband licence in 17 circles

State-owned, loss-making telecom major, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) plans to surrender its broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum in 17 circles, after realising that it has been saddled with outdated technology.

BSNL paid about Rs8,500 crore in 2010 for acquiring the licence for BWA in 22 circles, but was offered 2.4 gigahertz, a low-quality band, which does not even go well with its WiMax services. BSNL is the only Indian telecom operator that opted for WiMax, which was rolled out about 10 years ago globally, but has been overtaken by long term evolution (LTE), or 4G, technology.

The state-owned behemoth is paying a high price for having acquired licences for an outdated system. In fiscal 2010-11, its losses mounted to Rs6,000 crore (as against a loss of Rs1,823 crore in 2009-10).

Its profits have been declining sharply since they peaked at Rs10,000 crore in 2005-06.

While BSNL has sought a refund from the government by offering to surrender the BWA licences for 17 circles, analysts expect the government to turn down the proposal.

The state-owned telecom operator, which provides landline and mobile services across the country – except in the Mumbai and Delhi circles – is heavily over-staffed.