Amid the fanfare about 5G in India, state-run operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has confirmed plans to start rolling out a 4G network from November and gradually upgrade it to 5G by August next year.
The PTI news service says that the company has plans to roll out almost 125,000 4G mobile sites in 18 months, quoting comments from BSNL Chairman and Managing Director PK Purwar at the recent India Mobile Congress.
The company is said to be talking to IT company Tata Consultancy Services (TCS ) and a consortium led by the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT), a government-owned telecommunications technology development centre, with the aim of using indigenously developed 4G technology that will be upgradable to 5G through software updates.
As for the planned 5G launch, Purwa was quoted as saying that the country’s Telecoms Minister wants BSNL to be 5G-ready by 15 August next year, a target he seems to think is achievable.
He also apparently said that India has one of the lowest average revenues per user (ARPU) and suggested that there is a need to look at whether this is sustainable.
In August this year we reported that the Indian government plans to restrict foreign telecom vendors from taking a role in the 4G and 5G modernisation projects planned by state-owned operators BSNL and smaller sister company MTNL.
BSNL must hope that this is the correct course of action after July’s announcement of a $20 billion revival plan. The plan is expected to take four years, after which the government expects BSNL to be profitable.