State-owned telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) could launch 5G services on its network by August next year, Union Minister of Communications Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Saturday, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched 5G services in select cities across the country
Speaking to The Indian Express on the sidelines of the India Moble Congress, 2022, where 5G services were launched in the country, he said, “BSNL should start rolling out 5G by August of next year. That way we will have a good three private player one public sector player ecosystem … of four competitors in the market”. He added that the tariff of 5G would remain such that “India would remain an affordable market”.
Asked how BSNL could achieve that target by next year when it is only just launching 4G on its network now, Vaishnaw said that the transition from 4G to 5G is not long and can be achieved in that time frame. He also clarified that initially, BSNL’s 5G will be based on the non-standalone architecture. In the non-standalone architecture, operators can maximise the utilisation of their existing network infrastructure with relatively lower investment.
In July, the government had cleared a Rs 1.64 lakh crore booster shot for the loss-making BSNL with an aim to upgrade the operator’s network to 4G, while de-stressing its balance sheet. The four-year turnaround plan includes both a cash component and a non-cash component.
The package has three main focus areas. Firstly, the government will focus on upgrading BSNL services, wherein the company will be administratively allocated spectrum in the 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz frequencies at the cost of Rs 44,993 crore through equity infusion. The government will fund capital expenditure worth Rs 22,471 crore for deployment of indigenous 4G stack by the operator, while also providing Rs 13,789 crore of viability gap funding for operating commercially unviable rural wireline operations.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had previously said that the Centre will provide sovereign guarantee to BSNL and MTNL for raising long-term loan. They will be able to raise long-term bonds for an amount of Rs 40,399 crore.
To further improve the balance sheet, AGR dues of BSNL amounting to Rs 33,404 crore will be settled by conversion into equity, and the government will provide funds to BSNL for settling the AGR/GST dues. Further, BSNL will re-issue preference share of Rs 7,500 crore to the government. In addition to these measures, the Cabinet also approved BSNL’s merger with Bharat Broadband Nigam Ltd — the nodal agency for BharatNet rollout — that will augment BSNL’s finer network.