New Delhi: Cash-strapped BSNL has requested a refund of Rs 8,313.9 crore for surrendering its broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum in 20 circles, Minister of
State for Communications and IT Milind Deora said.
   
"BSNL, in their recent letter, dated March 29, 2012 has submitted proposals with two options: for surrender of BWA spectrum in 2.5-2.69 GHz band allotted to them in all the 20 circles and requested to refund Rs 8,313.9 crore," Deora has said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.
   
He added that BSNL has suggested a second option, seeking a refund of Rs 6,724.51 crore for surrendering BWA spectrum in six circles -- Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Kolkata, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, alleging that non-standard frequency was allotted to it.
   
As per the guidelines issued for auction and allotment of BWA spectrum dated August 1, 2008 and September 11, 2008 and based on BSNL's application dated September 21, 2007 and January 21, 2008, for one carrier of 20 MHz bandwidth in 2.5 GHz band, BSNL was allotted BWA spectrum in 2.5-2.69 GHz band in various service areas.
   
The guidelines stipulated that one block of 20 MHz shall be allocated to BSNL in all the service areas immediately at a price equal to the highest bid in the respective area.
   
BSNL, in its letter, has alleged that at the time it planned for wireless broadband, WiMax was the only technology available and commercially used worldwide. However, telecom industry is now moving towards LTE technology.
   
"LTE-TDD technology in the 2.5 GHz band allocated to BSNL is still in development stage and BSNL cannot utilise it for commercial services," the letter said, adding that other operators have been allocated spectrum in 2.3 GHz band and ecosystem around this band is developing faster.
   
"They (other operators) will have price advantage due to economy of scale and faster and cheaper availability of equipment," BSNL said.
   
The state-run telecom firm said the 2.5 GHz band, being the higher band, would require more towers to cover rural areas, compared to 2.3 GHz band, which puts "BSNL in a disadvantageous position", it said.
   
Deora said BSNL did not make any request for the change of frequencies from 2.5 GHz to 2.3 GHz band until the publication of Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) issued on February 25, 2010, a public document for BWA spectrum auction and even until the declaration of results of successful bidders of the auction in 2.3-2.4 GHz band.
   
BSNL's losses have more than tripled to Rs 5,997 crore in 2010-11 from Rs 1,823 crore in 2009-10, mainly due to high staff cost and payments made for 3G and BWA spectrum.
   
It had reported the highest net profit of over Rs 10,000 crore in 2005-06 but since then its profits have been falling and it reported first net loss in 2009-10. In 2010, BSNL had paid over Rs 8,500 crore to the government as spectrum charges for BWA spectrum.

(Agencies)