Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), an Indian govt owned telecom company, has faced many roadblocks in its endeavour to launch 4G. The most major one that the telco was having problems addressing was the mandatory local technology for rolling out 4G. The government made it pretty clear that it doesn't want foreign vendors on the 4G network of BSNL. But what was not clear was the roadmap for BSNL to launch 4G because there were no Indian companies at the time who were experienced or even had proven technologies to help telcos roll out 4G networks. The local manufacturing ecosystem wasn't developed enough or wasn't dealing in radio equipment and core network tech, which the telco used for their 4G networks. So, at a point where BSNL's 4G launch had already been delayed more than a healthy amount of time, the govt put ahead a task for the telco to source local technology, which wasn't even available.
While the move to build the local tech ecosystem is a good one, no one can deny the loss that BSNL has to face because of this. But this gave an opportunity to Indian firms such as TCS (Tata Consultancy Services), HFCL and more to step up and show their calibre by developing local technologies. This would not only let them supply the equipment to BSNL but also open gates globally and give vendors an opportunity to look at options beyond Nokia and Ericsson.
Will BSNL Finally Launch 4G this Time
After a long wait, TCS and BSNL have finally completed the PoC (proof of concept) for the 4G technology. But for the deployment to take place, BSNL and TCS need a commercial agreement, which is where things might get tricky. The Indian government has reportedly given the nod to BSNL to go ahead and place the order with TCS for the 4G deployment. Under the order, TCS would also have to take up the management of the networks for the next nine years.
Tejas Networks, another Tata-owned company, is going to provide the equipment, while TCS will play the role of a systems integrator in the deal. The deal would also include the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) which has played a pivotal role in helping the companies develop core network technology for BSNL's 4G. C-DoT has also demonstrated a homegrown 5G solution which can potentially be leveraged by BSNL when it decides to upgrade to 5G.
BSNL has run into multiple delays so far. Only time will tell if a commercial arrangement between the companies can be finalised soon and whether we will be able to see BSNL's 4G networks soon. There are expectations that BSNL will roll out 4G by January 2023. But for that to happen, things need to move fast internally.