Though the lack of 4G services with State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has impacted its revenue, at the same time its subscribers share has not been affected. Rather, between 2016-17 and 2020-21 it rose from 8.6 per cent to 10.03 per cent.
According to official sources, with spectrum usage depending largely on data consumption, the growing competition in the telecom sector has led to reduction in tariffs. However as there are no 4G services available under the BSNL bouquet, its average revenue per user or ARPU as it is known, has been impacted.
Despite the absence of a significant service in its bouquet of offers, the State-owned telecom service provider has seen a growth in its subscribers' share consistently in the past four years.
In 2016-17, BSNL's subscriber share was 8.6 per cent, which significantly went up to 9.4 per cent in 2017-18. By the end of 2018-19, it had again grown and reached 9.9 per cent and in 2019-20 it had crossed the 10 per cent, to touch 10.3 per cent.
However by 2020-21 (as on March 21, 2021), it had slightly come down to stand at 10.03 per cent, according to the ministry's data.
Though the government had announced a revival plan for BSNL almost two years back on October 23, 2019 which also included administrative allotment of spectrum for ensuring 4G services to its subscribers, things have moved rather slowly.
BSNL invited expression of interest for proof of concept from Indian entities only on January 1, 2021 and the letter of intent or LoI has been issued to five eligible bidders on July 1, 2021.
The delay on part of the Telecom Ministry in inviting the expression of interest for prospective 4G vendors, more than a year after the Union Cabinet had announced a revival plan for BSNL, was mainly due to its insistence on rolling out the spectrum service using only indigenous equipment as well as technology.