The Department of Telecom is weighing the option of setting up a special purpose vehicle to be jointly owned by private telecom operators and public sector companies for rolling out the national broadband optical fibre cable network.
According to the proposal under consideration, private telecom operators may be given 49 per cent stake in the SPV and the balance will be with the state-run companies. No single player will hold more than 26 per cent stake. The DoT could invite bids from private telecom players for the equity sale.
"We are looking at multiple options to execute this initiative including a joint venture mode with private operators. Private shareholding will not only bring in best management practices, but also ensure creation of a neutral platform, which will give level playing field to all the operators," a senior Department of Telecom official told Business Line.
The official added that other options, including asking Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd to undertake the entire project, are also being examined.
Earlier, a committee headed by Mr Sam Pitroda, Adviser to the Prime Minister, had suggested setting up an SPV comprising Central public sector undertakings such as RailTel and Power Grid Corporation that already own optical fiber cable. But the DoT is not in favour of this proposal, on grounds that it could lead to operational issues.
The Government is working on a National Broadband Plan aimed at rolling at broadband infrastructure to every village with more than 500 people. The focal point of this plan is to create an optical fibre cable network across the country.
According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, additional 25 lakh route kilometres of cable would be required at an estimated cost of Rs 60,000 crore to meet future bandwidth demands. The project will be partly financed by the Universal Services Obligation fund.