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Raja wants free spectrum for BSNL, MTNL
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Quote:Two years after having allotted third-generation (3G) spectrum without any contest to its own telecom companies, on the promise that they’d match the prices later paid by private sector winners of the auction for it, the communications ministry now wants them to get it for free.

A RajaBharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) had paid a combined Rs 29,598 crore for 3G and broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum only weeks earlier, after the auction was finally held for private competitors. They can’t really afford to pay; let’s return it to them, Communications Minister A Raja has formally proposed.

In a letter to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, he has said: “BSNL is the only service provider giving connectivity to far-flung rural areas. The service rendered by BSNL in the rural areas of the country cannot be replicated. Being public sector undertakings, which are shouldering social and governmental obligations, it is essential that they (BSNL and MTNL) be absolved of this heavy financial burden.”

In August 2008, both BSNL and MTNL were given spectrum ahead of the auction process for the private players, but they were required to match the winning bids in their respective areas. MTNL, which operates in Delhi and Mumbai, paid about Rs 11,098 crore (Rs 6,574 crore for 3G and Rs 4,534 crore for BWA spectrum). BSNL, which operates in the rest of the country, paid about Rs 18,500 crore (Rs 10,186.6 crore for 3G and Rs 8,314 crore for BWA spectrum).

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