The government of India has approved the state-owned operator BSNL’s request for a holding of 2.1GHz spectrum as it prepares to launch a commercial 4G offering next year.
BSNL originally asked the Department of Telecom (DoT) for a 5MHz block of 700MHz spectrum in exchange for an equity infusion. Neither BSNL nor its fellow state operator MTNL (India’s smallest mobile player) took part in India’s October 2016 auction of 4G spectrum.
India’s Economic Times reported that BSNL will receive the holding by the end of October, and that the operator plans to begin offering services in March 2019.
In February 2018, the operator contracted Nokia to roll out its 4G and VoLTE services across ten Indian service areas. As part of the deployment, BSNL is launching 50,000 new telecom towers to push its total number up to 130,000.
Following the merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, BSNL is now the fourth largest operator in India with 113.1 million subscribers, giving it a market share of 9.87% (according to data from TRAI). Around 82% of its subscribers use exclusively 2G services.