India's BSNL to launch pan-India 4G in 2022India's BSNL to launch pan-India 4G in 2022
State-owned BNSL likely to finally roll out pan-India 4G services by September 2022, targeting revenue of INR9 billion (U$119.5 million).
December 8, 2021
India's state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is likely to finally roll out pan-India 4G services by September 2022, according to the minister for state for communications, Devusinh Chauhan, in response to a query in parliament. BSNL is targeting revenue of INR9 billion (US$119.5 million) in the first year.
This means that the company might be launching 4G after the private players launch 5G.
According to media reports, the government plans to hold a 5G spectrum auction in April-May 2022 with the target of launching 5G services on August 15, India's Independence Day.
Figure 1: Speed it up: BSNL could be launching 4G after the private players have already launched 5G.
(Source: SOPA Images Limited/Alamy Stock Photo)
So BSNL will start offering 4G services when 4G is already established as a key technology for mobile broadband in the country.
India already had more than 700 million 4G users at the end of 2020, according to the Nokia MBiT study 2021, and is likely to have around 800 million 4G users by the end of March 2022, says Crisil, a rating agency.
Last to the party
The inordinate delay in the launch of 4G services is one of the key reasons why BSNL continues to lose subscribers.
According to TRAI data, the company's subscriber base has come down from 119 million at the end of December 2020 to 113 million at the end of September 2021.
Correspondingly, its market share has come down from 10.29% to 9.73% in the wireless market over this time period. More importantly, only 50.31% of its subscribers were active in September 2021.
The delay in the 4G launch meant that BSNL didn't benefit from the increase in data demand and consumption in the past year due to the global pandemic. It also means that BSNL will be forced to play catch-up with other telcos in the upcoming 5G market as well.
Home made networks
In November, BSNL extended the trial of its 4G services by another two months. As per the mandate from the government, the company needs to use home-grown 4G technology and is testing the same.
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It is conducting a proof-of-concept with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and the government-owned Center for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) in Chandigarh in Northern India. Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw made the first test call in October 2021
The requirement to use indigenous technology solutions is part of the government's Atmanirbhar (self-reliant) initiative to boost innovation and the domestic industry. Unfortunately, this might have led to the delay in launching 4G services.
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading
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