BSNL playing defensive, will launch 4G by March 2016 to take on private telcos : Report

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Bharat sanchar nigam Ltd. the largest PSU has declared that it will launch its 4G services in 14 circles where it holds spectrum in band 41 by the end of current financial year which is around March 2016.

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This comes as a reaction to the 4G launch plans by private operators and BSNL's fear of losing out subscribers to them through MNP. Bharti Airtel has already launched 4G operations across India while Reliance Jio and Vodafone have declared their services will go live by December. Idea cellular has also made a press statement saying they are well placed to take on the 4G competition from these operators.

"We will launch competitive tariff plans to match Reliance Jio and other private telecom service providers' pricing, be it 4G or 3G, by the end of this year," BSNL chairman-cum-managing director Anupam Shrivastava told Economic times.

BSNL holds 20MHz of spectrum in 2500MHz band (Band 41) in 14 circles after it surrendered its BWA spectrum in 6 circles for a refund (some of which were in band 7 while the remaining were in band 41). BSNL plans to launch operations on this band and price its services in the same range as Reliance jio, the latter holds spectrum in three frequency bands 2300MHz (Band 40) 1800 MHz (Band 3) and 850MHz (Band 5).

Shrivastava further said, "We are taking Wi-Fi route for our 4G services and also talking to telecom operators for spectrum sharing." Wi-Fi technology connects through 2G or 3G network and acts as a 4G hotspot to delivers high-speed data services to consumers.

BSNL says it has plans of sharing spectrum with Reliance Jio but it is unclear how it plans on doing that since the 4G spectrum held by both operators are in different bands and the cabinet has only approved the sharing of spectrum in the same band and disapproved spectrum leasing of any kind. The state-run operator is also evaluating device-bundling options for 4G services and is currently in talks with various device manufacturers for consumer-friendly schemes.

"We compete with each other and share infrastructure with Reliance Jio as well. In today's scenario, it should not be seen as a competition as the objective is to serve consumers," Shrivastava said.

BSNL is completely restructuring itself to revive its operations in India and turn its profitability charts around which have been registering a year on year decline since 2009. BSNL has launched pioneer schemes like Pan India roaming free for its wireless subscribers and Night time calling free for its landline subscribers, as a result of which the company added 16 lakh new customers in July and 15 lakh in August 2015.

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Esmail is our very own in-house spectrum specialist. He is passionate about Telecom, DTH and OTT video streaming apps. When not writing an article, you can find him binge watching shows on Netflix while sipping on a cup of coffee.

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