BSNL prioritises 4G rollout in 2024 as 5G pushed back to next year

BSNL prioritises 4G rollout in 2024 as 5G pushed back to next year

Indian state telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) will reportedly spend 2024 focused on completing its 4G network and building its market share, which means its 5G ambitions will be further delayed to 2025.

According to ETTelecom, citing a report in Financial Express, BSNL CMD PK Purwar said the telco plans to achieve 20% mobile market share by the end of this year.

Purwar said BSNL can hit that target if it speeds up its rollout of 4G and puts extra emphasis on network quality and achieving maximum network uptime, the report said.

BSNL is currently upgrading existing cell sites as well as installing new ones in places like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh (East), Uttar Pradesh (West), Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh. The report says BSNL will have 100,000 4G base stations running by the end of the year.

BSNL is building its 4G/5G network entirely with locally developed network equipment. In May last year, a consortium led by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) received an advance purchase order from BSNL worth over Rs 150 billion (US$1.8 billion) to roll out the network. The consortium includes Tejas Networks, Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT) and ITI Limited.

Last week, Indian telecoms vendor HFCL landed a deal worth INR 11.2 billion (US$135 million) from BSNL to upgrade its optical transport network (OTN) across the country to support its 4G/5G rollout.

The latest statistics released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) show BSNL has a little over 8% market share by the end of October 2023. If it boosts that to 20% by year end, it could potentially overtake third-ranked Vodafone, whose market share was 19.6% at the end of October.

Purwar also told the Financial Express that its 4G network will be the foundation for launching 5G, as its 4G base stations are software-upgradeable to 5G. Purwar said BSNL will launch 5G in 2025.

The goalposts for BSNL’s 5G launch have been moved several times in the past year. In May 2023, Union IT and Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said BSNL would be ready to upgrade its 4G network to 5G by December 2023. In November the same year, Purwar said BSNL would start rolling out 5G after completing its 4G network in June 2024.

Private telcos Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel plan to complete their 5G rollouts by the end of this year. They also have a considerable jump on migrating users to 5G. Around 100 million people have subscribed to 5G as of the end of November 2023, according to government figures.

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