The merger between Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) and Bharat Broadband Network (BBNL) for setting up the country’s largest optic fiber cable (OFC) network is close to finalisation with the companies finalising swap ratio and valuation of assets and liabilities.
Top sources from the government told BusinessLine that Deloitte has been tasked to work out the procedural and operational modalities with regards to the merger that the government hopes will create a company that will further the government’s mega digital outreach programme under BharatNet.
The great revival
“The valuation report to determine the swap ratio and valuation of assets and liabilities is underway and will be submitted by November 25 to BSNL, and the draft scheme of merger along with Board report by December 18. This has to be undertaken by Deloitte,” the source said.
The Cabinet in its meeting held on July 27 had considered and approved the proposals of Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for “Revival of BSNL and merger of BBNL with BSNL”, according to which BSNL will be responsible for targets by government for fiber services in all villages.
An agreement was to be signed between Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) and BSNL on construction, operations and maintenance (O&M), utilisation of the BharatNet network, payment terms and conditions, etc.
ITS officers join BSNL
According to sources, several meetings have been held between BSNL, BBNL and DoT since August, in which it was also decided that BBNL terminate deputation of 36 ITS (Indian Telecommunications Service) officers with BBNL and they join BSNL.
“BBNL relieved 35 ITS officers on September 30 from its strength; all 35 ITS officers joined BSNL on October 1. Also, to expedite the process of merger in time bound manner a Committee has been constituted and to closely watch and monitor the progress and to supplement Transaction Adviser’s (Deloitte) efforts, it was decided that committee shall have meetings on every Wednesday,” said another source.
The information/ details pertaining to various verticals has been provided to Transaction Adviser well in time to facilitate completion of merger process. In the last meeting with Transaction Adviser, it was deliberated that they will submit the first draft scheme by November 25, the source added.
BharatNet project is a dream project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi since his government took charge in 2014. In his Independence Day speech in 2020, he also mentioned that in the next 1,000 days, every village in India would get optical fiber Internet.
And, in this year’s Budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also announced that BharatNet broadband will be ready by 2025, adding that BharatNet contracts for laying optical fiber will be awarded through public-private partnership (PPP).
As per the latest update (Wednesday) on its website, BBNL has laid 6,03,571 km of OFC that include 1,94,781 gram panchayats where 1,86,495 of equipment have been installed and connected.