USOF may be utilised for development of communications in areas that at present suffer on account of acute power shortage

A panel constituted by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has recommended that state-run BSNL be entrusted the task of solarisation of the telecom towers in the power deficient rural areas, with funding support from Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).

“…the work of solarisation of the tower in rural areas be entrusted to BSNL which has a vast telecom infrastructure as well as expertise in the rural areas,” an internal note accessed by The Hindu said.

The committee, which includes members from the telecom department, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, BSNL and industry associations, was constituted by DoT in March this year to prepare a roadmap and propose a comprehensive programme for deployment of renewable energy options in the telecom sector.

Funding

With regard to funding, the committee has suggested that USOF may be utilised for development of communications in areas that at present suffer on account of acute power shortage.

As on March 31, 2013, the available USO Fund stood at Rs.27,949.91 crore and on an average the annual accrual to the fund is expected to be about Rs.6,500 crore.

Capex

The note stated that about 3.5 lakh towers are to be provided RET power by 2020.

“The rural towers shall be about 2 lakh spread over a period of seven years, that is, about 30,000 towers per annum.

The capital expenditure for RET provision on each of the BTS mobile tower will be Rs.2 lakh,” it added. The DoT panel has sought the USOF Administrator’s views on the recommenda- tions.

According to sources, to make BSNL eligible for funding on nomination basis from USOF without an open tender, amendment will be required in the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules 2004 which stipulates that selection of Universal Service Provider shall be made by bidding process from among eligible operators for implementation of USOF schemes.

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