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TCS can finally expect to receive 4G equipment PO from BSNL in March

A consortium led by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), India’s biggest IT services player, has reached the final stages of closure in its deal with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL).

Sources in the know said the deal size was estimated at $2.9 billion (around Rs 24,500 crore). It has received the required clearance from the board of BSNL and is now with a group of ministers.

“The approval may come in the first half of March. We have submitted the relevant details from our side,” a senior BSNL official said.

According to the deal, the consortium, which includes the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) and Tejas Networks, will provide 4G equipment for 100,000 new telecom towers. This includes network gear and third-party items costing about Rs 13,000 crore. “TCS will provide annual maintenance for the new sites for 10 years,” said a source close to the development.

A detailed email sent to TCS remained unanswered.

However, TCS’ spokesperson said: “(In accordance with) policy, we can’t comment on market speculation.”

In November last year, the consortium was expected to be the lone bidder, after successfully submitting proof of concept. But Bengaluru-based state-owned telecom equipment maker ITI also entered the race at the last moment.

“The technical bid was cleared much before, but it was stuck in commercial detail. It has now received all the clearances,” said another source.

4G flip-flop
BSNL’s plans to bring 4G service years after the three private telecom service providers — Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea — rolled it out rest on the new towers being planned.

The firm has been instructed by the Department of ­Te­lec­o—m­­munications (DoT) to quickly roll out 4G service nationwide and gain users. This is to shake off its image of a laggard, multiple officials added. But the plans have been repeatedly delayed. The latest deadlines are August 2023 for rolling out 4G and end-2023 for 5G, sources said.

DoT officials said the government expected over 24,600 uncovered villages, mostly located in remote areas, to get BSNL’s 4G service by December. It has decided to prioritise tower installations in 45,180 villages yet to be connected with the fourth-generation network. This focus on unserved areas is expected to give it a toehold in the competitive market.

Despite the ongoing 5G race, telcos continue to expand in the 4G segment. For instance, Jio has approximately 532,000 4G LTE (long-term evolution) network base stations and claims to cover more than 95 per cent of India’s population.

Meanwhile, Vodafone Idea recently said it shut down about 22,000 3G sites during the second and third quarters, while adding about 11,500 4G sites. With the tightening deadline, cost rationalisation has been prioritised and BSNL plans to update the same 4G towers to 5G later, another official said. It will be ready with a full 5G roll-out within a few months, two DoT officials said. Business Standard

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