Tata Consultancy Services is the front-runner to cooperate with BSNL in the country's first innovative 4G network rollout.

BSNL May Have Found The Partner For Its 4G Rollout

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Monday, September 13, 2021 07:54 PM IST
BSNL May Have Found The Partner For Its 4G RolloutBSNL may have found the partner for its 4G rollout
  • During a meeting between the Department of Telecommunications and BSNL, it was unanimously suggested that TCS could be the strongest candidate for the 4G rollout, based on its successful network deployment for core testing in Chandigarh.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has emerged as the frontrunner to partner with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) to develop India's first homegrown 4G network.

Officials said that during a meeting between the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and BSNL last week, chaired by Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash, it was unanimously suggested that TCS could be the strongest candidate, based on its successful deployment of the network for core testing in Chandigarh.

Other candidates such as Tech Mahindra, HFCL and L&T recently warned BSNL that their trials with Pertsol would be impossible due to the high risk of failure. During the technical discussions, they encountered numerous difficulties, reported BusinessLine.

But it was also reported that TCS, Tejas Networks, and the government-owned research and development firm Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) had claimed a smoother and better trial run.

An official familiar with the matter said: "Under the proof of concept (POC), TCS, C-DOT and Tejas have recently deployed the network for core testing in Chandigarh. The first PoC is expected to be completed by 30 November."

According to the report, the work has begun and the core network has been turned on, as well as the RAN (radio access network), as part of the trial. An official stated that TCS is a large corporation that can commit to broader network assistance.

Another official said: "They (TCS) are not looking only for BSNL project and this is not their end. They want to take it as a first step to get a strong foothold in the core telecom network solutions provider space."

The Chairman and Managing Director of BSNL, Pravin Kumar Purwar, who attended last week's meeting, told BusinessLine, "Proof of concept is being implemented. TCS is one of the five firms."

Previously, plans involving Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE had been put on hold due to security and geopolitical concerns. Menwhile, industry experts argued that deployment cannot be postponed much longer, even as the government considers the project's security.

However, some reports claimed that the domestic OEM (original equipment manufacturer) could act as a bulwark against international firms' domination in the Indian market. This was in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Atmanirbhar Bharat" campaign, which advocated for indigenous manufacturing.

The report noted that TCS' claim is backed up by recent events like its strategic cooperation with Bharti Airtel to implement even 5G network solutions in India. Tata Group has built a 'state-of-the-art' O-RAN based Radio and NSA/SA Core, as well as a completely indigenous telecom stack, using the company's and its partners' capabilities.

In January this year, BSNL published a notification stating that it would examine the quality of Indian telecom equipment before allowing local manufacturers to compete in the company's upcoming 4G contract. As reported, the company plans to purchase 4G equipment for 57,000 locations.

Even though it had filed a 4G tender worth Rs 9,300 crore for telecom gear procurement in March last year, it was later cancelled due to a variety of factors, including allegations from Indian companies that BSNL violated the preferential market access norms and is biased against foreign enterprises.

However, the 4G rollout by the state-owned telecom company BSNL is fraught with danger. Its prepaid plans are among the most cost-effective and they serve a very different purpose than those offered by the private players. The caution and delay are therefore well-founded; yet, with 5G advancement on the horizon, any further delay could have unintended consequences.

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