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BSNL Races to Catch Up: 4G Expansion Plans Amidst Subscriber Loss

Recently, BSNL issued a tender worth approximately Rs 65,000 crore for the third phase of the BharatNet project, which is part of a larger project valued at around Rs 1.4 lakh crore.

The government telecom company Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has seen its 4G subscriber base reach eight lakh. BSNL initially launched this service in northern states such as Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. Despite facing losses in recent years, the company is gearing up to launch its 5G service.

While major private telecom companies like Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio have nearly completed expanding their 5G networks, BSNL faces stiff competition from these companies. BSNL has installed over 3,500 4G towers, with plans to increase the number to 20,000 towers nationwide soon. Information Technology and Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had previously stated that BSNL aims to acquire 10 crore 4G subscribers within 12 to 24 months. However, delays in launching the 4G network have resulted in BSNL losing a significant number of subscribers. The contract to install the 4G network was awarded to Tata Group’s IT company, TCS.

In the third quarter of the last financial year, the company’s consolidated net loss increased to approximately Rs 1,569 crore on a quarter-on-quarter basis, compared to Rs 1,481 crore in the previous quarter. However, the company’s losses have decreased year-on-year, down from Rs 1,868 crore in the same quarter of the previous financial year.

The tender issued by BSNL for the third phase of the BharatNet project aims to provide internet connectivity to over two lakh gram panchayats. Several telecom equipment companies such as Ericsson, HFCL, STL, and TCS are expected to bid for this project. The selected companies will be required to operate the network in gram panchayats for a duration of 10 years. BSNL has invited bids for 16 states and union territories, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Punjab, Haryana, Kerala, West Bengal, and Puducherry. As per the tender terms, companies bidding for the project should have a minimum net worth ranging from Rs 50 crore to Rs 375 crore, depending on the state.

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