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Extracts from news reports on the interview given by Shri Anupam Shrivastava, CMD BSNL:

“Backed by a new management, state-owned BSNL looks to regain lost ground by offering Wi-fi at a speed faster than 4G, across the country. In an interview with Prashant Mukherjee, CMD Anupam Srivastava says the company should witness a complete turnaround by 2017-18 with its data business.

Why did BSNL take so long to come up with a revival plan?

The triggering point was the recent changes made by the telecom regulatory body. In March, Trai came out with a new IUC (inter-connect user charge) regime, whereby any call that originates from a landline network and terminates at any other network will not invite any termination charge. Earlier, it used to be 20 per cent of `1. Therefore, if I had to make a landline call from my network to another network, I had to pay 20 paise; now I don’t have to pay anything. This was the triggering point of our revival. Recently, we made landline charges free from 9 pm to 7 am and steps will be taken to resurrect the data business.”

“We have not lost much market share because of disconnection of landlines. We have lost market share because we couldn’t progress in our mobile segment. We launched our mobile operations in 2002, and charged only `1/min tariff where other operators were charging around `20/min. And, we became the market leader in mobile service as well in 2006, far ahead of any private operator. We had a 30 per cent market share, which is higher than the present Airtel market share of 23 per cent. But after 2006, we were not successful in buying equipment; there were forces acting against us not permitting BSNL to procure the right equipment. Till 2012, private operators had a free hand. We lost business. We can say that BSNL lost the voice business from 2006 to 2012.”

“How will your new Wi-fi offer help?

This Wi-fi is going to be different from the earlier one. This is going to be a public Wi-fi that will compete with 4G from private operators. Since, the data transmission will happen from optical fibre, speed will be much faster than 4G .

Do you have enough spectrum for that?

When we roll out Wi-fi, it’s free spectrum. Wi-fi spectrum is free spectrum, 4G spectrum is bought spectrum. Being India’s largest landline operator, we are better placed than private operators to roll out Wi-fi because you need landline cable and optical fibre. Speed will be more than 4G data speed. Then, we are going to integrate the Wi-fi to the mobile network. By 2017-18, with revenues from our data business, the turnaround of BSNL will be complete.”