Tata Consultancy Services set to win first pan-India 4G network deal

BSNL 4G Network TCS

IT services major Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is inching closer to clinch the pan-India 4G network deal from India’s state-owned telecom operator, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), to deploy the country’s first 4G network using indigenously developed radio and core products.

TCS has formed a consortium with state-owned research and development (R&D) company, Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) and Tejas Networks. While C-DoT is providing a 4G core, Tejas Networks will bring its 4G radio access network or RAN equipment. TCS will act as the master system integrator or MSI.

The TCS-led consortium is competing with different consortiums led by Tech Mahindra, HFCL and Larsen & Taubro. These companies recently submitted Express of Interest (EoI) for BSNL’s phase nine tender for 57,000 4G sites nationally and began conducting trials to test their indigenous 4G network technologies.

During a recent meeting between India’s Department of Telecommunications and BSNL top management, TCS-led consortium was “unanimously suggested” as the strongest candidate following its successful deployment of the network for core testing in Chandigarh city, as per a report by Indian financial newspaper Hindu Business Line.

The development comes when other contenders are struggling to get their indigenous 4G-stack ready as their common partner, Pertsol, might not be ready with its 4G core technology.  Tech Mahindra, HFCL and L&T have reportedly informed BSNL that their trials with Pertsol would not be feasible because chances of failure are high.

“They have experienced many glitches during the technical discussions,” the report added.

A government official told the publication that the proof of concept (PoC) testing is already underway and is expected to be completed by November 30. Both core and RAN technologies and equipment are being tested right now.

The person further added that TCS, through the BSNL PoC, wants to prove that their 4G solutions can be deployed commercially. “They want to take it as a first step to get a strong foothold in the core telecom network solutions provider space.”

India’s Tata Group recently claimed to have developed a ‘state of the art’ O-RAN based radio and NSA/SA core technology and said that it had integrated a totally indigenous telecom stack, leveraging the Group’s own capabilities via Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Tata has joined hands with Airtel to test and deploy Open-RAN-based 5G radio and core solutions starting January 2022.

BSNL’s managing director and chairman, Pravin Kumar Purwar, informed the publication that the PoC is on but didn’t share any further information regarding other consortiums and their performance.

Notably, BSNL’s survival and competitiveness depends on the launch of 4G services. The struggling telecom aims to roll out a 4G network commercially within 10 months of successful completion of trials by local companies.

After the successful completion of PoC by Indian companies, BSNL will split the tender for the rollout of the 4G services into two parts to allow multinational players like Nokia, Samsung and Ericsson to participate. Nokia is already one of the major technology providers for BSNL’s existing network in half of the country, while the rest of the network was deployed by ZTE. As per reports, ZTE and Huawei were barred from participating in the tender or any network expansion because of security and geopolitical concerns.  The existing 2G and 3G networks of BSNL have largely been built by Chinese vendors ZTE and Huawei. More than 44% of the mobile network equipment of state-run BSNL is sourced from ZTE, while 9% of equipment is from Huawei, as per official estimates.

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