As the saying goes, it’s never too late to start, the Minister of State for Communications Devusinh Chauhan said that the much-anticipated fourth-generation or 4G commercial services launch by state-run 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.
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 2500 MHz frequency spectrum to offer 4G services.
Following 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 December 31, 2021.
The Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT), a Tata group firm and state-driven research and development (R&D) organization that has emerged as a leading consortium, is now conducting a 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 Indian corporations such as Tech Mahindra and L&T pulled out of the race.
Last October, Ashwini Vaishnav, 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.
In the first phase of the program, 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, BSNL requested Rs 37,005 crore from the government, which includes Rs 17,500 crore for capital expenditure (Capex) and Rs 19,605 crore for debt payment between the current fiscal year and FY24.
The operating expense (OPEX) incurred by the telco as a result of the 4G network rollout is expected to be close to Rs 800 crore every year.
According to current statistics from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), the state-run telecom carrier’s market share has dropped to 9.60 percent.