BSNL delays 4G launch to December, proposes using Vi Network to provide service

The union suggested utilizing the Vodafone Idea Limited network because the government is the largest stakeholder in the company.
BSNL (File photo)

NEW DELHI: The BSNL Employees Union has requested the government to use Vodafone Idea Limited's network to provide 4G services to BSNL customers due to the delay in BSNL's 4G launch. The Union expressed concerns that the delay is impacting BSNL's financial revival as competitors like Reliance Jio and Airtel are attracting BSNL's customers with 5G technology.

“The ground reality is that both Reliance Jio and Airtel, armed with the state-of-the-art 5G technology, have started poaching BSNL’s customers. In this backdrop, the delay in BSNL’s 4G launching is seriously affecting the company’s financial revival, as envisaged under the revival packages offered by the Government of India,” reads the letter.

The union suggested utilizing the Vodafone Idea Limited network because the government is the largest stakeholder in the company. Currently, the Government of India holds a 33.1% stake in Vodafone Idea Limited (Vi) after the accrued interest towards the AGR arrears of Vi was converted into equity in February 2023. UK’s Vodafone Plc and India’s Aditya Birla Group jointly own 50.4% of India’s third-largest telecom operator.

Subsequently, the BSNLEU requested that the government, by utilizing its status as the largest shareholder in Vi, ensure that BSNL is allowed to immediately provide 4G service to its customers by utilizing the 4G network of Vi.

“This will only be a temporary measure, till BSNL’s 4G network is commissioned by TCS. …This timely intervention, to be made by the Government of India, will go in a big way to stop the massive exodus of BSNL’s customers and also to ensure the early revival of BSNL,” reads the letter.

The BSNL Employees Union (BSNLEU) also highlighted the customer exodus from BSNL's network, with subscribers porting to other telecom operators. Referring to TRAI data, it mentioned that 22,20,654 customers had ported out from BSNL in August 2023, and an additional 23,26,751 customers had done so in September 2023.

According to data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), as of November 30, 2024, BSNL held a 7.98% mobile subscriber market share.

“These data only indicate that the customers are porting out from BSNL massively and the reason for this massive exodus is nothing but the non-availability of high speed data service with BSNL, since the Public Sector Company has not yet launched its 4G service,” reads the letter.

The employee union also questioned TCS for delaying the supply of equipment to BSNL to roll out 4G services. The telco has placed an order worth Rs 19,000 crore with the TCS consortium and ITI for deploying 100,000 4G tower sites across the country. The union expressed concern that the commissioning of BSNL’s 4G network by TCS may be further delayed.

“The shifting in the date of BSNL’s 4G launch is due to the fact that the delivery and installation of 4G equipment to BSNL by TCS is getting inordinately delayed. We learn that the 4G equipment from TCS has not even completed field trials till today,” reads the letter.

BSNL is struggling to launch 4G at a time when India's top private telcos, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, are rapidly deploying 5G networks. According to the letter, the CMD of BSNL, P K Purwar, stated that BSNL’s 4G service would be launched in December 2024.

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