State-owned BSNL’s 4G technology will be upgraded to 5G in 5-7 months and rolled out across 1.35 lakh telecom towers the company has in the country, Union telecom and railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Thursday. While speaking at a CII event, the minister said the government has plans to increase the telecom technology development fund from Rs. 500 crore per annum to Rs. 4,000 crore to encourage indigenous innovation.
In response to a question on BSNL’s role in telecom sector by Kotak Bank CEO Uday Kotak, Vaishnaw said BSNL will become a very strong stabilising factor in the telecom space.
He said BSNL has about 1,35,000 mobile towers across the country with a very strong presence in the rural areas which are still not fully covered by the other telecom players.
“Telecom technology stack is going to be rolled out. It’s a 4G technology stack which will be upgraded to 5G in a timeframe of five to seven months. That technology stack will be rolled out across the 1.35 lakh telecom towers in the country,” Vaishnaw said.
BSNL has asked Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to offer equipment for 5G testing so as to enable the telecom firm to start the trials for 5G services.
The minister said with the roll-out of 5G across BSNL network, the public sector firm, compared to the two other big players and a third player, will become a major player in the telecom space and especially for the far-flung areas which wouldn’t be served by a typical market mechanism.
Talking about encouraging innovation and startup ecosystem, Vaishnaw said that Indian Railways and defence have started a model to support startups from the idea stage to proof of concept and in some cases are giving a market or revenue stream at least for three to four years.
“We are taking that model to telecom space. A Telecom Technology Development Fund of Rs 500 crore every year has got established. We will be taking that to Rs 3,000-4,000 crore per year. That technology development fund will be available to the entire industry,” Vaishnaw said.
He said that Railways already has over 800 startups associated with the programme while 2,000 startups in defence are part of it.
“You can come up with new ideas for new solutions. Begin from an idea and come up to a product level. Similar experiments will be done in many of the sectors,” the minister said.
He said that the industry has the responsibility of getting world-class certifications for their products and always take a bigger challenge and deliver something at a better quality than only the word will notice Indian industries.
The minister said that Indian Railways has designed Vande Bharat bogie with a margin of 1 millimetre, which makes it an export quality design and newspapers in 18 countries have published about it on their own.
“We took a challenge that the margin of design has to be less than 1 mm. We could have exported to Germany if we would have done 3 and definitely at 1 mm. Hopefully by the time we meet, maybe next year this time, we will have about 75-80 trains and when those 80-100 trains run for 2-3 years, the whole world’s market will be India’s market,” Vaishnaw said.
He said that it was a very difficult task to design a rail bogie with that kind of margin and a very robust spring almost like a cushion on which the vehicle is resting.
“This train, despite the condition of our tracks today, is able to give a ridal quality which is significantly superior to any other train in the country. It is comparable to most of the international trains in the world. The train was tested at 180 kilometres per hour on a track between Delhi and Kota and that a glass of water did not even shake,” Vaishnaw said.
The minister said the sound quality inside the train is 1-100th of the sound inside an airplane.