Government-owned telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is going to receive ₹44,720 crore outlay for capital investment in 4G spectrum, technology investments as well as for the restructuring of the organisation.
This allocation of funds to develop BSNL’s 4G capabilities is a 100 per cent increase to the allocation last year, where BSNL’s 4G capex was skipped entirely. This outlay to BSNL has increased budgetary allocation to the Communications Ministry by 137 per cent year-on-year to ₹84,587 crore for 2022-23 – in comparison to ₹35,550 crore allocated in 2021-2022.
The allocation comes at a time whenthe public sector unit continues to fall behind private operators.
Private operators Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio are already gearing up for the deployment of 5G services next year but BSNL is yet to set up 4G services. The operator is expected to spend ₹18,000 crore on the purchase of 4G spectrum. The; the amount comes under the ₹69,000 crore BSNL revival package that the government greenlit for the operator in 2019.
The government waited to allocate funds to buy spectrum as BSNL had not developed and deployed technologies to set up the 4G network. The remaining ₹26,000 core are the additional new funds that have been provided for technology investments as well as the restructuring of the organisation.
Behind the curve
Unlike private operators using foreign network vendors such as Erricson, Huawei to set up their networks, BSNL is using indigenous players as a part of the Make in India initiative.
According to sources, Tata Consultancy Services and Tejas Network combined are likely going to bag the contract to set up the 4G network for BSNL.
The ₹44,720 allocation does indicate that the government is certain that the process will be complete by this year and BSNL can then commit to deploying its 4G services. Capital infusion in MTNL (Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited) for 4G Spectrum is nil, as, according to a senior official, BSNL’s 4G network will provide 4G services in MTNL areas as well.
Experts believe that nearly 10 years out, BSNL might have missed the 4G train, especially as private telcos are ready for 5G deployment.
A senior member close to private operators said, “Under Make in India, BSNL has been pressured to buy only Indian equipment by Tata and Tejas. Howcompetent they will be is also in question since Tatas have never set up a network. Its is only the likes of Ericsson, Huawei who have done so far.”
As the development of the 4G network by BSNL has no end in sight, experts worry that public funds are being squandered for an elusive goal. The Hindu BusinessLine