Indian telco BSNL to launch 5G in August 2023: Report


BSNL will initially offer 5G services through a NonStandalone (NSA) network architecture

Indian state-owned telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) could launch 5G services by August of next year, Indian press reported, citing the country’s Minister of Communications Ashwini Vaishnaw.

“BSNL should start rolling out 5G by August of next year. That way we will have a good three private player one public sector player ecosystem,” Vaishnaw said.

BSNL will start launching its 4G network nationwide next month thanks to a financial boost by the government. The telco aims to deploy 125,000 4G sites nationwide within the next 18 months.

Vaishnaw said that the transition from 4G to 5G could be achieved by August 2023. He also clarified that initially, BSNL’s 5G network will be based on the NonStandalone (NSA) architecture.

India’s Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi officially announced the start of the 5G era in the country on October 1, as part of the ongoing India Mobile Congress event.

Vaishnaw also announced that over 200 Indian cities will get 5G service in the next six months. He added that 5G services could be available in 80-90% of the country in the next 2 years.

The 5G spectrum auction in India concluded on August 1 and according to Vaishnaw, local carriers purchased a total $19 billion worth of spectrum.

Reliance Jio walked away with the most spectrum, having spent $11 billion. Airtel won spectrum worth $5.4 billion, while Vodafone Idea received spectrum worth $2.4 billion. Finally, Adani purchased spectrum worth approximately $27 million, which it will use to offer private 5G network services.

The first telco to launch 5G in India was Bharti Airtel, which has activated its 5G services in eight cities with plans to progressively cover the entire country by March 2024. Some of the cities where Airtel already offers 5G include Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi and Bangalore.

Meanwhile, Reliance Jio Infocomm said it plans to launch 5G services in the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata by the end of October. The carrier has previously said it expect to cover the entire country with 5G by the end of next year.

According to published reports, Jio is the only carrier in India which plans to roll out its 5G network via a 5G Standalone architecture. Jio has secured spectrum in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 1.8 GHz, 3.3 GHz and 26 GHz bands.

Vodafone Idea will be rolling its 5G network progressively over the next few years, the operator’s CEO Akshaya Moondra said.

Vodafone Idea’s non-executive chairman RavinderTakkar previously said that the launch of 5G services in the country will depend on several factors such as the evolution of use cases, customer demand and competitive dynamics.

“Vodafone Idea has actively participated in the [5G spectrum] auction and acquired the midband 5G spectrum in 17 priority circles and millimeter wave 5G spectrum in 16 circles. This will enable Vodafone Idea to embark on its 5G rollout journey in the country,” Takkar told analysts during the telco’s annual general meeting.

The carrier is currently having negotiations with various vendors for 5G procurement.