BSNL's Commercial Rollout Of 4G Services Expected From August-September: Telecom Minister

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Jan 31, 2022 05:17 PM +05:30 IST
BSNL's Commercial Rollout Of 4G Services Expected From August-September: Telecom MinisterBSNL
Snapshot
  • The introduction of BSNL's next-generation network has been on hold for more than six years, and the company continues to lose money due to the non-availability of 4G services currently offered by private-sector competitors such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea.

Minister of State for Communications, Devusinh Chauhan, has said the much-anticipated fourth-generation (4G) commercial services launch by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is expected in Q2 of fiscal 2022-23, with a purchase order (PO) for network equipment procurement likely to be placed by April this year.

The introduction of BSNL's next-generation network has been on hold for more than six years, and the company continues to lose money due to the non-availability of 4G services currently offered by private-sector competitors such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea.

In a letter to the telecom department (DoT) in April 2015, then-BSNL chairman, Anupam Shrivastava, requested the 2,500 MHz frequency spectrum for the deployment of 4G services.

Now, Chauhan told ET Telecom, "Currently, the Proof-Of-Concept (PoC) is ongoing which is expected to be completed by 31 January 2022."

After a delay in the procurement of specified power-backed radio equipment, BSNL allowed a consortium led by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to test the network within a 120-day timetable, which was eventually extended until 31 December last year.

The Tata group of companies and the state-driven research and development (R&D) organisation Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT), which emerged as a leading consortium, are currently conducting a proof of concept (PoC) in Ambala and Chandigarh for network testing and demonstration purposes.

Following the DoT's technical committee proposal for the usage of Indian core in BSNL's next-generation network, rival groups led by corporations such as Tech Mahindra and L&T pulled out of the race.

In October last year, Ashwini Vaishnaw, the Minister of Communications, and K. Rajaraman, the secretary of the Department of Transportation, conducted the first test VoLTE (voice-over long-term evolution) call over an indigenously designed 4G network.

However, in the first phase of the programme, BSNL plans to deploy 4G equipment at 50,000 sites in urban and semi-urban areas, out of a total of 90,000.

In September, the corporation requested Rs 37,005 crore from the government, which includes Rs 17,500 crore for capital expenditure and Rs 19,605 crore for debt payment between the current fiscal year and FY24.

Because of the 4G network rollout, the telco's operating expense (opex) is expected to approach Rs 800 crore per year.

Nonetheless, BSNL chairman Pravin Kumar Purwar earlier said that the “challenge is the absence of 4G services today”. But according to him, it is expected to be in a better market position once the telco launches 4G services.

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