In the latest step towards a full merger between India’s state-owned operators, BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited) has assumed control over the Delhi and Mumbai mobile networks of its sister firm MTNL (Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited).
Both firms have been on the decline for some time, and the merger plan is one phase of the government’s longer-term strategy for their revival. MTNL has traditionally operated the state networks in the metropolises of Delhi and Mumbai, with BSNL providing services across the rest of the country.
In December last year, MTNL accepted BSNL’s proposal to fold their assets together. As noted by CommsUpdate, the government subsequently licensed BSNL to operate across all telecom circles nationwide and extended the validity of its Unified Access Service Licence (UASL) for another 20 years.
The agreement between the operators appears to have prompted BSNL to announce a tender for 57,000 4G sites as it seeks to build out a nationwide 4G network. The terms of the tender, for the “planning, engineering, supply, installation, testing, commissioning and annual maintenance of 4G mobile network” appear to incentivize the selection of Indian providers rather than overseas vendors, in line with Narendra Modi’s protectivist “Make in India” initiative.