Vibrant BSNL need of hour for Nation

Vibrant BSNL need of hour for Nation

As per ideal business model for telecom, four viable operators are required to avoid monopoly and to have fair competition. One of them should be preferably a PSU. BSNL has been in the telecom arena under various avatars for more than 165 years. It established good practices and conventions in the telecom service worth emulating by the lateral entrants in the sector. It entered into mobile services, with a big bang with free incoming offer, declaring India as ‘free incoming’ nation. The other private TSPs were forced to give free incoming facility, because of BSNL, benefiting the customers and it clearly demonstrates the impact of competition and need for a PSU. It was the first operator to remove roaming charges for incoming calls (from June 15, 2015) making ‘ One nation one number’ dream to become true.

Transparency in billing and metering has been the hallmark of BSNL, which has been appreciated by the sector regulator, TRAI. BSNL was adjudged as the most trusted brand in the telecom sector along with LIC in the insurance sector. BSNL’s tariffs are very competitive. At the same time it does not resort to predatory pricing. It follows ethical and fair business practices. Because of BSNL presence in the mobile segment, there was a transition from ‘missed call’ regime to ‘free call’ regime.

BSNL along with MTNL has pan India presence. Once these two entities get merged, pan India leased circuits can be provided with greater ease, throwing stiff competition. Serving back-ward, hilly and remote (BAHAR), tribal and rural areas has been the USP of BSNL as it has a service motto rather than profit motto. BSNL has a wide spread OF (Optical Fiber) network penetrating into even rural areas.

During natural disasters, it is always the BSNL which will be at forefront. When there was a severe earthquake at Bhuj, Gujarat it was only the BSNL buildings that could withstand the impact of the tremors and survive which shows the quality of its buildings and uncompromising standards. During the Hudhud cyclone at Visakhapatnam, it was only the BSNL network that was live. Without bothering about expenditure, BSNL ensured that DG sets were running on 24×7 basis giving continuous service unlike the private TSPs (Telecom Service Providers). It allowed customers of other TSPs to use its network with ICR (Intra circle Roaming) arrangement. BSNL’s exemplary services were applauded by the State government and customers. Similarly during Chennai floods and Orissa cyclone it rose to the occasion and came to customers’ rescue. It offered free calls during natural disasters. MOC mentioned on many occasions about BSNL’s noteworthy services during natural calamities.

In the national security angle, BSNL presence is very much required in the Telecom segment. People will never forget how one particular TSP manipulated CLI of incoming international calls and presented them as local ones, just to save IUC (interconnect Usage Charges), jeopardising national security. Armed forces rely on BSNL/ MTNL for their telecom needs. Like umbilical cord, the landline network connects customers to the mother BSNL. BSNL (Best Spoken National Language) landline network is an ideal one for long duration conversation. Landline connection serves as address proof. Though BSNL marched ahead of other TSPs in introducing 3G services and being ‘generations’ ahead of other operators, it is lagging behind others in 4G services. Delay was there in allotting spectrum to BSNL. BSNL’s 4G tenders had to be cancelled as they were not conforming to Athmanir Bharatha. Till 4G services are started by BSNL, it is handicapped as there is no level playing field. Wherever 4G services are introduced by BSNL (using 3G spectrum), data download speeds are quite attractive as evident in the speed tests. After successfully launching a core testing network, the consortium of TCS, CDOT and Tejas is the front runner for rolling out 4G in BSNL. It will be the country’s first indigenous 4G network.TCS has partnered with CDOT for core equipment and Tejas for radio equipment. TCS will provide billing and other software. The consortium has plans to further upgrade the network to 5G by 2023. Let us hope that the deviations (highest in radio network) proposed in specifications, which include critical issues, will be adequately addressed by the consortium so that the quality of 4G service of BSNL will be on par with that of private TSPs. BSNL has successfully laid submarine cable between Chennai and Portblair/ other islands in Andaman & Nicobar which has ushered in the digital revolution in these islands. This cable was commissioned by PM on August 10, 2020. This project was completed ahead of schedule by BSNL. It is going to lay a similar cable between Kochi and Lakshadweep islands. BSNL has installed wifi hotspots at major tourist centres, bus stations and rural telephone exchanges. It will be leveraging its fiber and broadband infrastructure to PDOAs (Public Data office aggregators) registered with DOT under PM- WANI (Wifi Access Network interface) programme. It will also register as PDOA and migrate its existing wifi access points to PM-WANI for better utilization. BSNL has vast experience and infrastructure for offering satellite services in remote and inaccessible places where other media is not feasible. It should take initiative in the provision of satellite broadband service in such places. BSNL has launched satellite based IOT service in partnership with Skylo. BSNL is doing well in FTTH and enterprise business. Compared to FY 20 in FY21 revenue in these segments is more. FTTH revenue increased from Rs 517 crores to Rs 937 crores. It is providing a good number of FTTH connections. Wherever fibres can’t be laid, it is providing Bharat Air Fibre service (unique to BSNL) which is a wireless connectivity using unlicensed spectrum. In this service Line of Sight radio waves are used to serve villages up to 5Km from exchange. Internet speed is upto 10 Mbps. BSNL should offer Inflight wifi services (using BTS and Satellites) ahead of other TSPs for which it has already got licence. Lot of business opportunities are available in this segment which should be fully exploited by BSNL. The wherewithal of BSNL should be utilised by the government for the implementation of national projects like Bharat Broadband Network, LWE (Left Wing Extremism) II, providing OF connectivity to all the villages. BSNL should leverage Artificial intelligence, big data, Machine learning and Block chain technologies to monitor/ improve its services. Recently it has integrated BSNL Automated Virtual Assistant (BAVA) in its website to answer customer’s queries related to services and to assist them. It is partly rule based and partly AI based. For strategic reasons, to avoid monopolistic tendency, to control the tariff and to provide good telecom services in rural areas BSNL should become strong and should be provided with a level playing field. Because of BSNL’s presence, tariffs are under check. When customers can’t differentiate between operators based on tariff, they go by quality of service leading to its improvement by all the operators benefiting the customers. BSNL should become a great national asset.

(L Anantharam Ex-Advisor, Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Government of India)

Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos set to offer broadband in India using a constellation of satellites with speeds as high as 1 GBPS and even more

Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, the world’s two richest businessmen, are set to take on Airtel’s Sunil Mittal and Reliance Jio’s Mukesh Ambani in the high-speed broadband and internet space as they have approached the Indian government with separate plans to offer satellite-based internet connectivity.

Sources said that Musk’s satellite internet venture, Starlink, and Amazon have held separate consultations with the telecom ministry – as well as the Department of Space – for starting satellite-based internet services in India, “though they are yet to apply for a license through the formal route”.

The plan of the companies is to offer large swathes of bandwidth – with speeds as high as 1 GBPS and even more – through low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites that would be deployed at a distance of around 1,000 km from Earth.

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AIGETOA Views & suggestions on Cluster based Outsourcing to the Committee Members

Serious flaws in the performance of Cluster based outsourcing system and massive surrender of Landline/Broadband Connections has been appraised to the management on multiple occasions and suggestions made in line with the discussion and deliberation held in our last CEC held on 2-3 August, 2021. A comprehensive submission is given by AIGETOA to the Committee formed for the purpose to look after the issues of the Cluster Performance. This has been given after making extensive consultations with our field level officers across the various Circles. We do hope that the management will take it in right spirit and incorporate the changes demanded by the association for the larger benefits of the BSNL.

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Meeting with Committee on Cluster System held on 28.09.2021

A meeting of AIGETOA, SNEA and BSNLEU held with the Members of the Committee formed to look into the drawbacks of Cluster based outsourcing System. The meeting was held through online mode which was attended by the CGMT Kerala and CGMT Karanataka along with other members of the Committee. AIGETOA was represented by Shri Wasi Ahmad GS, Shri Ravi Shil Verma AIP and Shri Ansal Mohammad Adv CHQ.

AIGETOA and other Associations/Unions have kept on raising the serious bottlenecks of Cluster based outsourcing with the management and thereafter the committee was constituted to look into its various aspects for improvement.

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It’s a fact that massive disconnections of copper based LL/BB are continuing despite of huge expenditure in the cluster system by BSNL. Tender for Cluster has several shortcomings including the limitation of penalty clause of 15%, no provisions to ensure sufficient manpower in a cluster/outdoor area and supply of proper store for maintenance etc resulting into severe dissatisfaction among customers and resulting in surrendering of the services. It was also apprised that the net expenditure has increased but quality of service is not meeting the minimum expectation of the customers. Even the top 50 performing BAs list released by the Corporate Office are not matching the standard parameters of SLA i.e. MTTR (4-12 Hrs) and Clearance of 95% Fault within 24 Hrs. This situation is prevailing as Cluster Partner is not providing the required support to maintain the services and our filed officers (JTO/SDE/DET) are struggling hard and facing the ire of various Civil Authorities in absence of optimum service.

AIGETOA presented detail report about the deficiency of the cluster system, challenges in the copper based network and suggestions for improvement to the Committee Members. In fact we have also suggested giving a re-look on the continuity of the Cluster System and investing money in current form and instead we should think to go back to conventional system for at least certain places owing to the fact that the copper based services have its own challenges in present time. SNEA and BSNLEU also gave their presentation on the topic.

AUAB issued circular with decisions of the meetings held on 23rd and 25th Sep, 2021:

The meeting of All Unions and Association of BSNL (AUAB) was held at New Delhi on 23.09.2021 and 25.09.2021. General Secretaries/Representatives of AIGETOA, BSNLEU, NFTE, SNEA, AIBSNLEA, SEWA BSNL, FNTO, BSNL MS, BSNL ATM, TEPU and BSNL OA, attended the meeting. The meeting reviewed the three day Dharna organised at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi and also discussed about the future course of action. The decision has been taken to organise a Twitter campaign on 06.10.2021 and a black flag/ black badge wearing demonstrations on 26.10.2021. The AUAB has issued the following circular carrying the decisions. The Circle and District Units are requested to implement the decisions taken in the meeting. AUAB has also issued a circular in this regard.

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Notification for holding of Central Governing Body Meeting of AIGETOA CHQ

A notification of the Central Governing Body Meeting has been issued to hold it on 3rd October, 2021 (Sunday) to discuss and deliberate about shifting of the AIGETOA society office to new location as per the resolution of the Annual General Meet. The restructuring, promotion and other issues are also part of the discussion of the agenda items. The meeting will be held through online mode.

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Three days Dharna (21-23 Sep, 2021) organized by All Unions and Associations of BSNL (AUAB) at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi:

The AUAB meeting held at New Delhi on 23.09.2021 noted with satisfaction that the 3 days Dharna programme organized by the AUAB at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi from 21-23 September, 2021 has become highly successful. Large number of employees and Pensioners from Delhi as well as from nearby Circles of UP (West), Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and UP (East) have enthusiastically participated in the 3 days Dharna programme. AUAB meeting also noted with satisfaction that the 3 days Dharna programme has created a great amount of zeal and motivation among the BSNL employees and the Pensioners throughout the country. The AUAB meeting conveyed its special thanks to all the employees and Pensioners who have participated in the programme from Delhi, UP(West), Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and UP(East) and also puts on record it’s appreciation to all the Circle Union/Associations of the constituents of AUAB.

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Further this meeting severely condemns the BSNL Management for issuing a very retrograde letter on 17.09.2021 to create a fear psychosis among the employees and to stop them from participating in this Dharna. By such letters, management is trying to snatch the DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS OF THE EMPLOYEES TO PROTEST, which we cannot be allowed.

The forum of All Unions and Association of BSNL assures that further struggles will be organized in the coming days, demanding settlement of the issues contained in the charter of demands as detailed below:

  1. Immediate launching of BSNLs 4G Service, by way of up-gradation of the BTSs and also steps for moving towards the launching of 5G service.
  2. Immediate settlement of the dues to BSNL, amounting Rs.39,000 Cr, by DoT.
  3. Immediate steps to off-set BSNLs debt, through the Monetization of lands.
  4. Disbursement of salary on the last date of every month.
  5. No selling out of BSNLs 13,567 mobile towers, in the name of National Monetization Pipeline.
  6. Complete review of the Cluster based Outsourcing System.
  7. Immediate settlement of 3rd Pay Revision, Pension Revision and Enhancement of Superannuation Benefits (SAB) up to 30%, for the BSNL Directly Recruited Employees.
  8. Speedy measures to improve the quality of BSNLs FTTH service.
  9. Prompt maintenance of BTSs, proper up-keep of the power plants, as well as availability of batteries.
  10. Strengthen the transmission networks by carrying out the speedy maintenance works. The leaders of the All Unions and Association of BSNL (AUAB) will hold a meeting with CMD BSNL today also.