BSNL Employees Union, wrote to the Minister of Communication, suggesting that the public sector telco must be allowed to use Vodafone Idea’s 4G network temporarily to provide its own 4G services.

These statements come after BSNL’s 4G network rollout with Tata Consultancy Services as the network vendor became inordinately delayed.

In a letter sent to the Minister of Communications, Ashwini Vaishnaw, on 4th May, the union claimed that BSNL is facing a large exodus of subscribers due to the non availability of BSNL’s 4G and 5G network.

Stating their apprehension that commissioning of BSNL’s 4G network has been delayed inordinately — they highlighted the significant exodus of BSNL subscribers as a result. “In the meanwhile, customers have started leaving BSNL massively, due to the non-availability of 4G / 5G services. This has already been brought to your kind notice through our earlier letters cited under reference. Reliance Jio and Airtel, which have already rolled out their 5G service throughout the country, are getting benefitted through the massive customer exodus taking place in BSNL,” the union added in its letter.

BSNL lost 18 million subscribers in the financial year 2024 ending in March, where 2.3 million subscribers left in the month of March alone.

The employees asked the government to consider allowing BSNL to use Vodafone Idea’s 4G network, especially as it is the largest shareholder in the operator. “To contain the massive exodus of customers from BSNL, our Union had already suggested that BSNL may be facilitated to utilise the network of Vodafone Idea temporarily, for providing it’s 4G service. Being the biggest shareholder of Vodafone Idea, we hope that the Government of India can very well ensure that this sharing of network is made possible.”

Recently Vodafone Idea was finally able to hit its fundraising target in a public issue it ran in April. With Rs 18,000 crore in the kitty, Vi hopes to invest heavily in its 4G network to make it competitive to Airtel and Reliance Jio. According to its red herring prospectus, Vodafone Idea expects to add 26,000 new towers in the next two years.

Meanwhile TCS formally signed the agreement with BSNL to set its 4G network nearly a year ago. Even before this, completing proof of concept tests took an equally long time.

During the media meet after Q4FY24 results, outgoing Chief Operating Officer, N Ganpathy Subramaniam noted that TCS will complete their first phase of network rollout with BSNL soon — however this indicates that total rollout of BSNL’s 4G network is no where near completion.