BSNL deploying 3G and 4G base stations to overhaul infrastructure

India’s state-owned provider BSNL is upgrading all of its 2G sites to 3G base stations and deploying 4G services in certain areas across the next fiscal year.

BSNL, which is India’s fifth biggest operator, will deploy 28,000 3G sites as part of its newly-announced 3G & 4G expansion initiative. The plan – due to be completed by April 2018 – will involve refarming some 3G spectrum and deploying 4G later on this year.

The operator’s chairman and MD Anupam Shrivastava confirmed that BSNL is considering bids from three vendors, and will announce the winning parties next month. Nokia has put in the lowest bid, with ZTE the second-lowest; if the latter matches the former’s bid then the contract will be split between them, with one party covering the south & west and the other taking the north & east.

BSNL has a 9% share of India’s market with 97 million mobile subscribers in Q4 2016. The majority of its users – around 85% - are 2G subscribers, with only 27% having access to smart devices. It is believed to be discussing a potential merger with fellow state-owned operator MTNL, the country’s smallest operator, which only operates in Delhi and Mumbai.

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