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Indian government throws weight behind state operators

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asserted his government’s ambition to revitalise the ailing state-owned operators BSNL and MTNL.

The country’s telecoms minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has stated that the government considers “the revival of BSNL and MTNL as priority concerns”, adding that “someone, somewhere will have to take responsibility and accountability as to which were the forces and patronised by whom, responsible for creating a mess.”

Nationwide operator BSNL is currently running an operating loss INR70 billion ($1.1 billion), compared to profits of INR99.7 billion ($1.56 billion) 10 years ago. Metro-area MTNL, which is present in Mumbai and Delhi, has not been profitable since 2009. When Modi took office a year ago, its debt was INR166 billion ($2.6 billion).

Prasad has claimed that expansion at BSNL was stymied by the previous government for around 6 to 7 years. The ministry is attempting to rectify this with a network expansion, and has already installed 15,000 new base stations, with a further 10,000 planned for the next few years.

Similarly, MTNL has upgraded 1080 3G and 1440 2G sites across Delhi and Mumbai.

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