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MTNL seeks time to sort out BSNL dues

G. Rambabu

According to official sources, BSNL has stated that all future interconnect agreements with MTNL would depend on the speedy settlement of pending dues.

NEW DELHI, June 13

TELECOM major Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has demanded Rs 1,317 crore from Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) as "network utilisation charges'' during fiscal 2001-02, and has sought immediate settlement of the dues.

According to official sources, BSNL has stated that all future interconnect agreements would depend on the speedy settlement of these pending dues. However, MTNL has raised objections and stated that the dues payable to BSNL for utilising its networks are much lower than what is being demanded.

The company has sought more time, stating that it is still in the process of calculating the exact dues. Until then it would not be in a position to meet BSNL's demands.

According to MTNL officials, the traffic figures in BSNL calculations are overestimated and need to be examined again.

They pointed out that since MTNL operated only in the two metros of Mumbai and Delhi, and BSNL operated in the rest of the country, both the companies were dependent on each other for utilising each other's network (for carrying through the STD calls made by their subscribers).

The revenue to be shared by them was always in favour of BSNL, given the large spread of its operations, but the amount of Rs 1,317 crore was on the higher side, they said.

With neither side willing to budge from the stated stand, the Department of Telecommunciations (DoT) had intervened and was trying to sort out the issue, sources said.

Meanwhile, in a related development, BSNL has also sought a transfer of MTNL's trunk automatic exchanges (TAX) in both the metros. The company has stated that since MTNL cannot offer national long distance (NLD) services, its seven TAXs in Delhi and Mumbai should be transferred to it.

Although MTNL is authorised to operate trunk services, it cannot offer STD and ISD services, and has to necessarily route all such calls through the BSNL network.

MTNL is reluctant to hand over its exchanges and has argued that if it gets a licence for international long distance (ILD) services, the TAXs would be required for that purpose.

"In the very near future the traffic in MTNL will be so much that even the existing TAX exchanges (four in Mumbai and three in Delhi) will be insufficient to handle the traffic. Therefore it is not possible to hand over the TAXs to BSNL'', the company has told DoT.

BSNL has suggested that MTNL can keep one TAX exchange each in Mumbai and Delhi to meet its traffic requirement and the balance TAX exchanges can be handed over to BSNL, immediately either on depreciated book value or on lease basis. MTNL is not reportedly keen.

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