BSNL faces "crisis" if 4G is delayed further

BSNL faces "crisis" if 4G is delayed further

The workers union of state-owned Indian operator BSNL said the operator is “sinking” into “crisis”, after claiming equipment from Tata Consultancy Services needed for its long-delayed 4G launch will take a year to be ready for commercial use.

The Economic Times reported, the union stated in a letter that it will take over a year for Tata to supply 4G equipment for BSNL’s roll out as field trials have yet to be completed. 

The union claimed subscribers are churning over to rivals Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel. BSNL Employees Union General Secretary P Abhimanyu said in a letter addressed to the Department of Telecommunications and BSNL executives that the operator is “sinking deep into the crisis” due to slow launch of 4G and 5G services. 

Abhimanyu said in the letter: “According to the data being released by TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) tens of lakhs (hundreds of thousands) of customers are deserting BSNL every month and are migrating to Jio and Airtel. 

“Denial of permission for the upgradation of the 4G compatible BTSs (base transceiver stations) of BSNL and also denial of level-playing ground to BSNL vis-a-vis the private telecom companies, in the matter of procuring mobile network equipments, have costed BSNL dearly.”

BSNL’s subscriber base declined from 21.35 million in October 2023 to 20.85 million in November. Meanwhile, Airtel gained 3.98 million subscribers taking its base to 255.07 million, and Reliance Jio added 3.45 million taking its total base to 455.82 million. 

The union detailed that BSNL is being hamstrung by its directive to buy equipment from domestic manufacturers, while Jio and Airtel purchase from Nordic giants Nokia and Ericsson, and South Korean player Samsung. 

The union blasted the government’s self reliance policy claiming officials know India-made telecoms equipment are not yet proven in quality. 4G could have been launched three and a half years ago had BSNL been directed to upgrade around 49,300 3G base stations, claimed the BSNLEU.

The BSNL Employees Union (BSNLEU) recently wrote in an earlier letter urging the operator to share 4G networks with under-fire operator Vodafone Idea to accelerate its long-delayed 4G launch, in tandem with its own deployment, which had been criticised for being done at a glacial speed. 

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