BSNL’s Existence Is In National Interest, Looking Into Issues: Ravi Shankar Prasad
India’s Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. (Photographer: Udit Kulshrestha/Bloomberg)

BSNL’s Existence Is In National Interest, Looking Into Issues: Ravi Shankar Prasad

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The existence of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. is in strategic interest of the nation, and the government is looking to resolve issue plaguing it, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Thursday.

The law and telecom minister acknowledged that there are problems in the telecom sector, which are being looked at by the government.

“BSNL is in strategic interest of the nation. Whenever there is flood, cyclones, BSNL is the first one to offer services for free. Seventy-five percent of their revenue goes into salaries of employees while others manage it in 5-10 percent. There are legacy issues which we are looking in to,” Prasad said at India Economic Conclave.

The state-run teleom firm hasn't been able to pay salaries for September, amid reports that the finance ministry wants BSNL and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. shut down. A group of ministers, headed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, has however approved a revival plan proposed by the telecom department.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad were part of the GoM that approved the plan. However, finance ministry officials later raised over 80 objections to the proposal prepared by the telecom ministry.

According to Prasad, the government is also working to resolve issues in the telecom sector, but it also expects service providers to be responsible by upgrading their network and ensuring that customers are satisfied with the services.

The telecom minister did not give any timeline for the launch of 5G services in India. The government wants to officially roll out the next-generation technology in 2020.

Prasad, however, said he would like India to become a hub of 5G IP rights but work carefully keeping in mind the development of the global ecosystem.

“We have given spectrum for demonstration purposes. I would like India to become good hub of 5G IP but we have to work carefully as to what kind of ecosystem develops in the world as far as 5G is concerned. Will it come in one year or two year? It will create opportunity, it will create problem also,” he said.

“There are many issues surrounding 5G. Our prime minister is very clear that both Artificial Intelligence and 5G must be used for healthcare, education, agriculture, and we are very keenly pushing it,” Prasad said.

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