High right-of-way charges behind long waiting list for BSNL landlines – Govt

High right-of-way charges levied by local bodies for allowing Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd to lay underground cables are largely responsible for the telecom company’s inability to provide land phones on demand, the government said.

As of January, BSNL has 12,052 landline applications kept pending and most of this is because of poor commercial feasibility issues rather than a lack of funds on the part of BSNL to lay cables, the government said.

Out of the 12,052 pending applications, 9,260 applications are in urban areas.

“For laying cables for landline connections local bodies charges for Right of Way are quite high, due to which the viability for providing connections becomes non-economical,” telecom minister Manoj Sinha said today.

The charges levied by municipal bodies for allowing underground cabling can often run into lakhs of rupees per km, he added.

“The Right of Way charges varies from state to state and at times are more than the total cost of Rs 5 to 6 lakhs per KM incurred by BSNL for laying of cables.”

Municipal bodies charge such high rates — especially in bigger cities — as BSNL digs up roads and footpaths to lay their cable. This requires municipal bodies to re-concrete the surface.

In some cities, however, the telecom operator is allowed to repair the damage caused to the roads by themselves in return for lower charges.

BSNL is facing a major shortfall in revenue in its mobile operations in recent months due to ‘free voice’ packs offered by private operators.

As such, its survival has become contingent on its viability as the primary provider of wired internet services in India.

The last major operator to lay cables on a large scale was Reliance Jio.

The company is estimated to have laid tens of thousands of kms of cables inside most of the big cities in India.

Instead of digging up the roads in the conventional format, Jio used horizontal drilling machines to drive plastic tubes under the footpaths and roads.

In some areas, it used road cutters that created a incision of 2-3 inches wide on the surface, laid the cable and then sealed it with cement.