BSNL is in strategic interest of nation, we are looking into issues, says Ravi Shankar Prasad

BSNL is in strategic interest of nation, we are looking into issues, says Ravi Shankar Prasad

Existence of BSNL is in strategic interest of the nation and the government is looking to resolve issues 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 upon 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. 75 per cent of their revenues goes into salary of employees while others manage it in 5-10 per cent. There are legacy issues which we are looking in to,” Prasad said at India Economic Conclave.

The debt-ridden PSU has not been able to pay salaries of employees for September. There have been reports that the Finance Ministry wants public sector telecom firm BSNL and MTNL to be shut down. A group of ministers headed by Home Minister Amit Shah has approved a revival plan proposed by the DoT.

The group of ministers had earlier approved a revival package for the loss-making public sector telecom firms in mid-July. 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.

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

The minister did not give any timeline for the launch of 5G services in India, while the government has officially set target to roll out the next generation services by 2020.

Prasad, however, said he would like India become a hub of 5G intellectual property rights and need to work carefully keeping in mind the development of 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.

He said that there are issues around 5G technology like who will be responsible if a driverless cars causes an accident. “There are many issues of 5G. Our Prime Minister is very clear that both artificial intelligence and 5G must be used for healthcare, education, in agriculture and we are very keenly pushing it,” Prasad said.