Government seriously considering allocating 4G spectrum to BSNL: Sinha

Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha Wednesday said that the UK-based Vodafone India and Aditya Birla group’s Idea Cellular have to complete certain formalities before merging their business operations, while confirming that the telecom department has already approved the mega deal between two telcos.

This is, however, the first official confirmation from the government, paving a way for India’s largest telco, which would however be materialised after the deposit of Rs 7,200 crores by the two operators.

Sinha Tuesday met Vodafone group’s chief executive designate Nick Read along with outgoing executive Vittorio Colao and Vodafone India managing director Sunil Sood.

“Merger is already approved. There are formalities that both Vodafone and Idea have to complete now,” Sinha said, adding that the designate and outgoing executives have flown down to thank him for the swift process undertaken by the department.

After Jio’s disruptive foray in September 2016, and bottom-hitting revenues, the two telcos decided to merge their operations to create India’s top telecom company dethroning Sunil Mittal-driven Bharti Airtel.

Sinha, on the sidelines of BSNL’s facilitation event, also said that the government is aggressively considering allowing fourth-generation (4G) airwaves to the state-owned telco.

“We are seriously considering and finding a way to allocate 4G spectrum to BSNL,” he said.

State-owned service provider plans to launch 4G services on the 2100 MHz band which requires the Cabinet nod for only Rs 3,500 crore to issue fresh equity while the telco would raise Rs 10,000 crore from its own kitty.

“We will support BSNL so that it can lead the market. Ministry is serious so that no handicap is left with it,” Sinha added.

Delhi-headquartered telco, amidst intense telecom rivalry in the course of two years, has increased its market share from 8% to little more than 10% today.

“We are ready to launch 4G services within a month’s time after the due approaches and spectrum allocation,” BSNL chairman Anupam Shrivastava said.

BSNL has also debuted Internet telephony with the launch of Wings app, which can route landline calls to mobile phone, and is available for Rs 1099 with unlimited voice calls for a year. The state carrier has also got a separate mobile numbers series for Internet telephony which can be allowed even by using mobile network of any operator.

Value-added services such as fixed mobile convergence will also be done with the launch of Wing, Sinha said, adding that the telco should aim top spot in the Internet telephony domain.

Telecom Commission, the government’s highest decision making group has approved Internet telephony or app-based calling in June this year, after the sector watchdog Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recommended it in October 2017.