BSNL Might Privatise Tower Company, Employee Union Unhappy: Report

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Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is looking to privatise its subsidiary company ‘BSNL Tower Company Limited’ (BTCL). The employee union of the telco has objected to the said move and worries that it is not in the best interests of the company's future.

For the unaware, BTCL is an infrastructure unit of BSNL that helps the telco manage its mobile network towers. The government is said to be looking for a strategic partner for the company.

According to an ET Telecom report, after the deal, BSNL wouldn’t be the company's majority stakeholder. BSNL Employee Union (BSNLEU) General Secretary P Abhimanyu said that bringing a ‘strategic partner’ and privatising the subsidiary company would mean the power will slip away from the state government's hands and transfer to the private entities.

Abhimanyu recalled that because of strong resistance from the union, BSNL couldn’t go ahead with its IPO plans for the tower company but is now looking to privatise it by selling a major stake to a private entity/entities.

Back in 2017, the Cabinet had approved for the plan of separating BSNL’s tower assets with the telecom company and form a new subsidiary so that focus on operations could be achieved. At present, BSNL operates 68,000 sites tower sites, out of which 7,000 sites are shared with Reliance Jio, and more than 13,000 sites are leased to other private operators.

The employee union group is worried about the future of the telco. Abhimanyu said that this would directly impact BSNL since it is the first step towards privatising the telco, however strategic it may seem.

The government has already decided to privatise BSNL’s tower company despite objections from the employee union. The employee body was told that the tower company, after being privatised, will focus on building smart cities and more such programs to stay away from the telecom business. This is to help with reducing the license fee that the telco has to pay.

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