A Group of Ministers (GoM) has recommended allocation of 4G spectrum to only to Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) in Delhi and Mumbai circles, and not to Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) as earlier decided. This follows the GoM’s recent decision to defer the merger of the two State-owned firms, citing MTNL’s high debt.

Also read: BSNL will not survive another year without 4G spectrum: Union

With no 4G spectrum allocation, MTNL will have to use BSNL’s radio waves to offer the services. MTNL will continue to provide 2G services using its own spectrum in the two circles it operates. A decision on 4G spectrum allocation will be taken only after the Cabinet decides on the two companies’ merger , sources said

Last week, the GoM chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh deferred the merger as MTNL becoming debt-free was one of the pre-conditions. Now the Cabinet has to take a formal decision on the merger.

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On October 23, 2019, the Government had approved the merger of the ailing telecom firms – BSNL and MTNL – and allocation of 4G spectrum for both the companies. BSNL had sought 2100 MHz spectrum for pan-India operations (except in Rajasthan), while MTNL wanted 1800 MHz for Delhi and 2100 MHz for Mumbai.

On January 11, the Government said BSNL’s EBITDA rose from loss of ₹3,596 crore for half-year ended September 2019 to profit of ₹602 crore in September 2020, for MTNL the figures rose to profit ₹276 crore in September 2020, from losses of ₹549 crore in September 2019.

Read more: BSNL 4G services to result in ₹50,000 crore windfall to Indian infra, tech firms

On January 1, 2021, BSNL had invited proposals for prior registration and Proof of Concepts from Indian companies for its 4G tender for 57,000 sites, of which 50,000 is planned for BSNL and the remaining 7,000 for MTNL.

Hunger strike

Meanwhile, a BSNL employees association has called for indefinite hunger fast from February 15, seeking implementation its executives’ promotions approved by the public sector unit’s board in May 2018. The fast, under the aegis of Sanchar Nigam Executives’ Association, also wants the management to fill up vacancies that came up following the company’s Voluntary Retirement Scheme on an urgent basis.

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