India’s BSNL highlights 4G BTS progress – but is it enough?

India’s BSNL highlights 4G BTS progress – but is it enough?

A number of Indian press reports have suggested that state-owned operator BSNL has installed 3,500 4G-capable base transceiver stations (BTSs) in five north Indian states, including Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh West.

It’s also claimed that the operator will soon start deploying its 4G BTSs in Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, along with other, as yet unnamed, states.

Tamil Nadu, which, along with Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, has apparently been chosen as the first area to provide 4G services, is expected to see the rollout of 4G after April. Tower installations are already under way across more than 4,200 sites in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

According to India’s Business Standard, quoting BSNL CMD PK Purwar, BSNL is “on target” to commercially launch the fourth-generation services as soon as “operationally possible”. There has been a suggestion that the commercial launch will come after BSNL achieves a target of 20,000 live BTSs.

But will this be enough? On 15 February we reported that the employees union of BSNL had suggested that the operator should engage in a limited network sharing deal with private operator Vodafone Idea, highlighting concerns about the pace of BSNL’s 4G rollout.

A few days later we reported that the same union had suggested that the operator was sinking into crisis, claiming equipment from Tata Consultancy Services needed for its long-delayed 4G launch would take a year to be ready for commercial use.

BSNL awarded an advanced purchase order to Tata Consultancy Services and government-run ITI Limited for the deployment of 4G equipment in June 2023.

While this BTS rollout announcement may be intended to allay some of these fears, it has been reported that a large number of customers – potentially millions – are deserting BSNL every month and are migrating to 4G (and 5G)-ready operators Jio and Airtel.

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