India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT), in a bid to hurry things along, has set a deadline of 31 July 2015 to complete the long-mooted merger of BSNL and MTNL, two struggling state-owned companies.
In its presentation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seen by India’s Economic Times (ET), the telecoms ministry is aiming to secure cabinet approval for the merger by 30 June next year. Merger consultations with BSNL and MTNL unions, reports ET, are scheduled to be wrapped up by next March.
Another DoT deadline is to separate out BSNL’s mobile towers – it has over 60,000 of them – and turn it into a wholly-owned business by 31 December 2014. Plans are also afoot to lease out BSNL and MTNL’s property holdings, again by the end of this year, in an attempt to rake in more cash.
MTNL offers services in Delhi and Mumbai, but is one of the smallest mobile operators in India. It had around 3.4 million connections as of end-June 2014, according to GSMA Intelligence.
BSNL, which offers services throughout the rest of India, is the country’s fifth-largest mobile operator with just under 90 million connections, but is steadily losing customers. The operator had 96 million mobile connections at the end of 2013.
Both companies have racked up hefty losses. In the year ended 31 March 2014, BSNL made a net loss of INR70.8 billion ($1.2 billion). In the quarter ended June, MTNL’s losses topped INR7.3 billion.