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TCS starts supplies for BSNL 4G equipment with Punjab

With BSNL launching 4G services using an indigenous technology stack, India has forayed into local manufacturing of telecom technology, preparing the ground for its export. Jatin Grover explains what the stack, developed by a TCS-led consortium, is and why the government is keen on launching 4G & 5G services using this.

What is the indigenous 4G-5G technology stack?
In general, a technology stack is a combination of different sets of software to develop an application required for a project. India’s indigenous telecom technology stack largely refers to the development of a core software in the country that takes care of end-to-end call control over the network of telcos.

With regard to BSNL’s 4G and 5G services, the Centre pushed for a PPP model to not only design the software in India but also hardware such as the radio access network (RAN) — for communication between the network and the devices. The telecom technology stack has been tested for 10 million simultaneous calls last year. Using this, BSNL will provide 4G services, which can be easily upgraded for 5G services.

Who has built India’s 4G-5G stack?
A consortium led by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which includes the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) and Tejas Networks, deployed the first 4G site with the ‘Made in India’ software stack and equipment for BSNL in Chandigarh. The core software has been developed by C-DoT and the equipment is being supplied by TCS, in consultation with Tejas Networks. The deal size between BSNL and the TCS-led consortium is estimated to be around `24,500 crore, which includes supply of equipment for 100,000 4G sites and maintenance of sites, according to people who are aware of the matter.

The Centre is yet to approve the deal, owing to the complexity of the transaction. However, as part of the pre-order, TCS has started supplying equipment to BSNL to prevent further delay of launch of 4G services in parts of Punjab.

The need for an indigenous stack
The Centre pushed for India’s own telecom stack with the objective to make India self-reliant in telecom technology and equipment manufacturing, and, ultimately, to start its export. The Centre is banking on a PLI boost to equipment manufacturing.

As per the Centre, 18 countries have shown interest in India’s 4G-5G stack.

Difference with existing tech
There is no difference between India’s 4G-5G stack and the one deployed by global equipment makers such as Nokia and Ericsson. It is just that the software has been designed locally by C-DoT.

Telecom operators like Airtel, Jio and Vodafone Idea have deployed 4G services using the indigenous technology stack and equipment from global equipment-makers. Airtel and Jio have placed orders with Nokia and Ericsson to roll out 5G services.

Why was BSNL so late in rolling out 4G services?
The delay in launch of BSNL’s 4G services can be attributed to the weak financial position of the company, the absence of focus from the government earlier, and, later, to a change in the government’s strategy on rolling out 4G and 5G using the indigenous technology stack. The revival package for BSNL is tied to its merger with MTNL, though there is little chance of this delaying rollout of the services by the company — except in the case of continued shortage of funds till the merger.

According to the government, the aim is to build India’s own technology not only for domestic use but also for exports. Lately, owing to the deployment of new technology, the proof of concept and initial testing also took time, which, to some extent, led to further delays in BSNL’s 4G and 5G launch.

The government, however, feels that the telecom operator has not missed the 4G bus as 4G is here to stay for a long duration, and within a short period of time, the state-owned telecom company will launch its 5G services. The company will first deploy 4G network using indigenous technology and equipment in three districts of Punjab — Ferozepur, Pathankot, and Amritsar — according to people in the know. Financial Express

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