Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has been struggling for years now to launch 4G. While it was expected to be launched in early 2023, it has now been pushed ahead to the second half of 2023. If there are any more delays, the 4G launch will go to 2024. BSNL is facing delays because it is launching 4G using homegrown technologies. But the delays have hurt the business a lot, and in the coming months, more and more customers will be shifting to 5G in India, which means the impact that BSNL’s 4G could have would start diminishing. Because it would take BSNL at least around 18 to 24 months to reach most of India with its homegrown 4G, the more delays there are, the more useless the 4G launch would become.
Just like 3G is not important right now, in the next five years, 4G will become less relevant. While 4G would be more important than 3G in context, its potential to generate impactful revenues for the operators would be gone. Thus, BSNL will have to go about its business with a disruptive strategy or else all the money and time poured into the 4G launch will not amount to anything.
BSNL has become a sad story for the Indian telecom sector. The company, which has so much potential, is not delivering at all. One of the reasons is that it is run by the government. It is not the fault of any single government that BSNL is in a rough position right now, but it is a collective failure on the part of the management as well as the government to raise the telco to a point where it could have been one of the leading telecom operators in the country.
The basic aim of a business is to fill gaps in the market, provide good and consistent services, and then generate profits. BSNL has done neither. BSNL has not launched 4G in India yet, where a good 4G network is required immensely due to capacity issues on the networks of the private telcos. Then, the telco has not provided good and consistent services to the customers. Because of all this, it hasn’t been able to generate profits, which is the basic aim of any company/business.
BSNL says that its 4G technology stack is upgradable to 5G. But the major question would come about where the funds will come from. BSNL is not generating profits, and it is not likely to generate profits in the coming years because of a lack of 4G and 5G; thus, where would the money come from to upgrade to 5G and place orders to private companies for the equipment? It can’t be relief packages again and again. Now while it is a slightly unpopular opinion, BSNL should be looking towards privatisation. But then, who would invest in a company that’s not fundamentally doing anything right and rebuild such a large operation from the base?
BSNL could have been a very successful company, but the sad reality is it would likely never be. What is really concerning is how the company will continue to function despite taking losses for years.