The Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA) said in a press release, on April 10, that BSNL and MTNL must urgently pay the money owed to tower companies like Indus Towers Limited, ATC Telecom Infrastructure, and Bharti Infratel Limited. MediaNama has reached out to BSNL for comment. TAIPA says state-owned operators owe around Rs 1,500 crores to tower companies.

In a letter to BSNL’s Chairman & Managing Director, TAIPA cited these specific financial difficulties that the COVID-19 pandemic had led to for tower companies:

  1. Difficulty in payment of rentals to the landlords: Landlords where BSNL sites are installed have been demanding the payment of rentals and threatening for [sic] coercive action.
  2. Difficulty in payment of electricity bills of BSNL tower sites.
  3. Challenges in Operation & Maintenance (O&M) expenses for 24*7 telecom operation of BSNL tower sites.
  4. Procurement of diesel/batteries and other backup storage devices for telecom towers sites of BSNL is getting impacted.
  5. Challenges in keeping the uptime as per [Service Level Agreements] for BSNL tower sites which is leading to BSNL network outage and blackouts in nearby areas of the sites.

TR Dua, TAIPA’s Director-General, said,The situation has become highly critical now with total outstanding dues from BSNL amounting to approx. ₹1500 crore which has been pending for long. Already the telecom industry is going through financial crisis, this is an addition to the financial woes of the telecom IP-1 players who are working tirelessly for ensuring 24/7 connectivity across the country. We are looking forward for an urgent intervention and support from the CMD, BSNL in the matter.”

On April 6, TAIPA had issued a condemnation of Nirlipt Rai, a superintendent of police in Gujarat, for allegedly assaulting a telecom engineer who had the appropriate permits to travel for work.