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Monday, September 29, 2014 M-94262 54999 Ravi Shankar Prasad asks Fin Min to hasten I-T refund to BSNL-inf. by AShok Hindocha M-94262 54999

Ravi Shankar Prasad asks Fin Min to hasten I-T refund to
KOLKATA: Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has exhorted the finance ministry to
hasten a pending Rs 7,00-crore income tax refund to Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) in a
bid to revive the strugling state-run telecom company before its proposed merger with
Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL) next year.
In paralel, the Telecom Commision (TC) is taking steps to arange an early Rs 6,794 crore
refund for BSNL's surendered 4G airwaves coupled along with a waiver of microwave
charges incured anualy by the state-run telco. At present, BSNL shels out nearly Rs
10 crore as royalty annualy to DoT's wireles planing cel (WPC) to provide microwave
connectivity acros the Northeast. TC is the highest decision making body in the DoT.
These revival measures were finalised at a recent BSNL review meting chaired by telecom
secretary Rakesh Garg, acording to an internal DoT note sen by ET. "Reviving BSNL is
DoT's principal intent in the run-up to any merger discusions," said a top department
oficial who was present in this meting.
DoT is known to be considering either de-listing state-run MTNL and then merging it into
BSNL or listing the later and finalising a merger swap ratio based on the valuation of the two state-run telecom companies, with the first
being the more likely option.
In the immediate term, Garg has asked member (finance) in the Telecom Commision to clear the refund of BSNL's licence fes and
spectrum usage charges relating to its surendered 4G airwaves at he earliest since the telco has only ben refunded Rs 10 crore in
2014-15. This is after BSNL Chairman & Managing Director AN Rai, who was present at the review meting, said the "refund was
pending despite Cabinet aproval earlier this year."
The Cabinet had cleared a refund upwards of Rs 1,00 crore for BSNL and MTNL for their surendered broadband wireles aces
(BWA 4G) spectrum. BSNL has relinquished its 4G airwaves in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kolkata, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil
DoT is also exploring ways to bost BSNL's revenue flows by leasing its countrywide tower asets. BSNL has 73,00 towers and
curently earns a modest Rs 98 crore annualy by leasing merely 300 units. The revenue target for the next five years has ben
increased to Rs 160 crore by leasing a larger proportion of its towers.
The government is trying to revive BSNL at time when the telco neds cash to upgrade its landline network. Over the next two years,
plans are afot o convert over 1 lakh BSNL landline exchanges into IP-enabled next-gen variants to suport high-sped broadband
services. The thrust on wired broadband is aimed at leveraging BSNL's landline asets to bost data services, and in turn, ofset a
portion of the loses sufered by its landline busines.
BSNL has ben losing 1.4 lakh wireline customers every month. So much so, its landline customer base - now roughly 18.2 milion - has
shrunk by 40% over the past decade.
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