comscore Airtel and Jio now offer 5G services, but what about BSNL?

Airtel and Jio now offer 5G services, but what about BSNL?

While Airtel and Jio are leading the pack, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is struggling to make even 4G services available throughout the country.


  • Airtel 5G Plus is available in eight cities and two international airports.
  • Jio has begun rolling out 5G services to four cities.
  • BSNL is planning to roll out 4G to the entire country in November.

Formally launched at the India Mobile Congress, 5G services are now available in select cities in India. Leading the 5G adoption in India is Airtel, having introduced 5G for its users in as many as eight cities with one million users. Airtel 5G Plus is also fully available at both Delhi and Bengaluru airports. Reliance Jio, the biggest telecom service provider in terms of users, is slightly behind with the limited launch of its “True 5G” network in four cities. So, while the private telecom service providers are leading the pack, state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is struggling to make even 4G services available throughout the country. Also Read - New BSNL broadband plan launched: BSNL Fibre Basic price and data cap

BSNL has had a past few tumultuous years, dealing with slumping revenues, an inability to maintain the necessary staff, and a myriad of politically-influenced headwinds. The state-run telecom company lagged behind its peers by not just several months but years in terms of offering the latest services to its customers, who resorted to switching to private companies, such as Airtel, Reliance Jio, and Vi (formerly Vodafone Idea). With the lack of proper leadership, BSNL could not jump on the bandwagon that was primarily driven by the high demand for data to run multiple devices and apps. Also Read - Airtel 5G Plus, Jio True 5G launched but here's why you aren't getting network

As a result, BSNL is still offering 3G services in most circles, while private companies are aggressively rolling out 5G across different cities. The company piloted 4G services in select cities in southern India as a part of the plan to cover the entire country within a year’s time. Earlier this week, BSNL chairman and managing director P.K. Purwar said that the pan-India 4G rollout will begin in November and by August next year, the company will begin upgrading its network to 5G. The company previously suggested that 4G deployment would begin in January next year. Also Read - BSNL 4G rollout may be delayed by 18 months again

What’s the reality?

BSNL’s ambition to finally make 4G available in India, however, may have experienced a hiccup, which may cause a delay of 18 months. According to The Times of India, BSNL may still be looking for a partner to upgrade its network. The telecom provider previously agreed to the bid made by the consortium that includes the Tata Group, Tejas Networks, and the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT). The consortium suggested the entire process would cost over Rs 20,000 crore. But BSNL’s internal estimates allow a maximum expenditure of Rs 17,173 crore. So, BSNL is looking out.

The possible bidders are Reliance Jio, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Tech Mahindra, and Himachal Futuristic Communications Limited (HFCL). Jio is likely emerging as the top choice because of its indigenously developed EPC (Evolved Packet Core) that can later be upgraded to support 5G services without needing a redo. Since BSNL is planning to fast-track the 4G rollout and commence 5G services as early as August next year, it would need an infrastructure that does not need changing, especially over the time of less than one year. BSNL has yet to zero in on a partner for taking its network forward, but as things stand, the rollout has not begun. It’s November already.

That means BSNL’s 57.27 million subscribers (TRAI data as of July 2022) will have to wait longer to get 4G services, let alone 5G.

  • Published Date: November 3, 2022 3:53 PM IST
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