BSNL wants 5 MHz in 700-MHz band for 4G coverage

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As it looks to take on private mobile operators, including Reliance Jio, in the 4G services market, state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) plans to secure 5 MHz spectrum in the premium 700-MHz band across the country.

The operator has already written to the government, expressing its interest in the 700-MHz band and may require financial support for the same. “We have to buy 700-MHz because we don’t have other options,” said Anupam Shrivastava, chairman and managing director, BSNL.

“We have 20 MHz spectrum in 2,500-MHz band in 14 circles but that gives us only the capacity. If you talk about coverage, we don’t have spectrum in 800-MHz, 900-MHz or 1,800-MHz bands. That’s why our strategy is to get 700-MHz, which is the best band to give coverage,” Shrivastava added.

The government is auctioning 700-MHz band for the first time, at a base price of Rs 11,485 crore per MHz. If all available airwaves under this band get sold, it alone will yield a whopping Rs 4 lakh crore.

Shrivastava said due-diligence will be done after the auction and if the price of 700-MHz reaches too high, BSNL might go for it in select few circles. “We have said that we are willing to pay but we have to see the price also, if it is too high and doesn’t make sense than we might take a call and reduce the requirement,” he said, adding that the operator is willing to pay as per the reserve price.

“We may need some kind of government support for getting 700-MHz. Let’s see how the market dynamics work out,” the CMD added.

Asked about the device ecosystem for 700-MHz, he said it won’t take long to develop. “The devices which support 800-MHz can easily support 700-MHz and even now 35 per cent of the devices are 700-MHz ready. Once 700-MHz is auctioned, 50-70 per cent handsets will immediately go for it,” Shrivastava added.

Private mobile operators have termed the reserve price for 700-MHz as unviable and said that the device ecosystem will take at least 3-4 years to develop. The state-run company is also planning to offer free voice calls from January 1.

The operator, which had earlier launched app-based calling service, allowing customers to make landline calls from mobile phones, is planning to come out with a new version. Industry players had objected saying the service violated license norms.

“We are thinking of a subdued version of the app wherein the service will be applicable within the home premises only. The main objection was that BSNL was converting landline phones into mobiles by this method. So we will limit this to home broadband. Even with cordless handset, you can roam around the house, so we are thinking that instead of cordless, the app will be there on the mobile which will be connected to landline and most of the calls could be made through that,” he added.

The plan is only for those who have landline broadband connection and mobile connection from BSNL. “Our strategy is to combine the broadband and mobile and offer free voice call. The plans will be cheaper than Rs 149 to compete with Jio,” he added.

Source :: Business Standard

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