Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) will soon have 4G services, Minister of State for Communications Devusinh Chauhan said during the Rajya Sabha’s Question Hour on Friday. The state-owned telecom operator has been struggling to compete against private players in India for the last few years. As a result of facing monetary and subscriber-base losses, the government decided to merge BSNL with Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Limited (MTNL). During the Question Hour, the minister also said that 5G services in India will begin by the end of this year.
“The 4G service on BSNL will start very soon, almost by the end of this year,” Chauhan said while responding to Uttar Pradesh MP Kunwar Rewati Raman Singh during the Question Hour — without giving any clear timeline. The minister also noted that the government is working towards improving the network service of the telco.
Unlike other telecom operators, BSNL does not have 4G connectivity on a pan-India basis. The telco in 2019 expected to complete its 4G rollout in 2020. It was also planned to float a tender for 50,000 4G sites in late 2019. However, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) cancelled the 4G tender for BSNL in 2020. It also reportedly planned to exclude Chinese companies from the 4G tender for the operator.
Chauhan had said in a previous Question Hour in February that BSNL was able to compete with private telecom service providers and had a share of 10.15 percent of all telephone subscribers in the country. He also noted that the loss of the operator declined to Rs. 7,441 crore in 2020–21, from Rs. 15,500 crore in 2019–20.
According to the recent data shared by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), BSNL has more than 11.43 crore wireless subscribers in the country, with over 11.75 lakh added in December.
In addition to speaking about BSNL’s 4G rollout, Chauhan said that the government was set to start 5G services in the country by the end of this year. He noted that the country already has 98 percent of mobile connectivity coverage.
Operators including Airtel, Jio, and Vi (Vodafone Idea) are conducting 5G trials in the country and working with telecom gear manufacturers to kick off their services for the next-generation cellular technology.
However, the initial rollout of 5G services in the country is expected to be limited to metro and big cities, while other areas would get the coverage sometime next year.