State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd’s (BSNL) plans to roll out 4G services using only indigenous equipment and technology would result in an immediate windfall of ₹50,000 crore to Indian telecom infrastructure and technology companies. Further, this would help in promoting India as an export hub for both 4G and 5G technologies.

This would be the first time companies such as Tata Consultancy Services, Tech Mahindra, Sterlite Technologies, Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd, ITI Ltd and Paramount Communications would be able to offer 4G solutions. These solutions would be also completely indigenous, Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association of India (TEMA).

TEMA, which is the oldest telecom body in the country, also stated in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the procurement of new technology for BSNL’s 4G rollout would also lead to domestic availability of 5G in the country.

“Any further delay by BSNL in rolling out 4G would be suicidal for BSNL. In fact, BSNL should be allowed to procure 4G immediately, at least by up to 70-80 per cent and the remaining should be kept for domestic industries,” TEMA Chairman Ravi Sharma told BusinessLine.

On January 1, BSNL invited Expression of Interest (EoIs) from firms to ascertain the eligibility of the bidders, following which a tender for 4G would be rolled out. The bids were for a total 57,000 sites (50,000 BSNL and 7,000 for MTNL). According to the EoI, all the bidders should be registered and headquartered in India and should not have any stake or partnership with other cellular operators (except MTNL).

Inordinate delay

“The launching of BSNL’s 4G services would be terribly delayed as the EoI mandates that BSNL should only procure equipment from Indian manufacturers. When it comes to 4G no Indian company has mastered this technology,” BSNL Employees Union (BSNL EU) General Secretary P Abhimanyu said.

“This would result in undue advantages to private operators, who are already using technologies from multi-national vendors,” he added.

The mini Ratna firm has sought 4G spectrum in 2017, even though it is yet to be accorded permission to start the services.

BSNL’s plea for launching 4G services by upgrading its existing 49,300 2G and 3G BTSs to 4G was also not allowed as part of the equipment are supplied by Chinese vendor ZTE, even though it is providing 2G and 3G services with the same equipment.