CBI has initiated action against former BSNL CMD Kuldeep Goyal and other officials.
While the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed chargesheets in the BSNL scam, company insiders are of the view that the investigative agency also needs to probe how BSNL was forced to accept the inferior 2.4 gigahertz spectrum, which can be used only to operate outdated and isolated WiMAX services.CBI is looking into irregularities in the process of awarding Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd's WiMAX (worldwide interoperability for microwave access) franchise to private firms.Sources said CBI was unlikely to widen its probe to uncover how the government reportedly forced BSNL to induct and use obsolete WiMAX airwaves.This, sources alleged, was to favour manufacturers of WiMAX, who could not find buyers for their equipment, which were left idle after it was introduced in 2001.While the private telecom players negotiated with the government for the more efficient 2.3 gigahertz band of broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum in May 2010, BSNL was offered 2.4 gigahertz, a poor quality band on which it was told to operate outdated and isolated WiMAX services.BSNL has already returned the commercially unviable Wimax spectrum in 17 of the total 22 circles. Moreover, its plans to rollout WiMAX- based services through a franchisee model could not take-off.However, BSNL has not been compensated by the Centre so far, although it had paid over Rs.8,500 crore for the WiMAX spectrum.BSNL is the only Indian telecom firm that had committed to the WiMax technology, which has become obsolete, for its BWA services. All other winners of these airwaves had decided to opt for upcoming LTE (long term evolution) platform for their 4G services.CBI is now investigating former telecom minister A. Raja's role in favouring private firms and offering them franchise for BSNL's WiMAX. It has already initiated action against former BSNL chairman and managing director Kuldeep Goyal and other top officials in this regard.A top BSNL official said while all the major private telecom companies that won the BWA auction in May 2010 are betting big on the rollout of fourth- generation (4G) technology, BSNL has been left high and dry.Sources said that being a public sector firm BSNL was forced to take the redundant 2.4 gigahertz of spectrum, which is not clear and interferes with other bands. It does not even effectively work out for WiMAX services."It is not commercially viable. The band offered to BSNL may not be suitable and technically does not match with the equipment available. Wimax lobbies may have been responsible for pushing it to BSNL. It will be the only company on WiMAX platform and will face isolation from interoperability and roaming arrangements," a top telecom industry official said.BSNL's own investigations had revealed that five of the six shortlisted companies for WiMAX services were acting as fronts for some individuals and shared the same corporate details. BSNL was forced to scrap the tender under pressure from its labour unions.