State-owned telecom service provider BSNL plans to launch 4G service by the end of 2018, reports PTI. BSNL’s chairman and managing director Anupam Shrivastava told the new agency that the telco has requested the government to allocate 5 MHz spectrum in the 2100 MHz band to roll out 4G Voice over LTE (VoLTE) service in the country.

Note that earlier this month, BSNL soft-launched 4G service in select locations of Idukki district in Kerala. The telco had utilised existing spectrum for this launch.

He also mentioned that the spectrum they’ve requested is valued at about Rs 12,000 crore, and that the government will bear Rs 9,000 crore. BSNL will pay the remaining amount in 10 annual installments.

Note that in August last year, the Minister of Communications Manoj Sinha had informed that BSNL owes Rs 18,500.38 crore to the government for spectrum allocated to it in 2010. The cost of these payments had “eroded their (BSNL and MTNL) reserves,” he said. Besides this, the government refunded Rs 6,724.51 crore to BSNL for surrendering the CDMA spectrum it held in the 800 MHz band, and waived-off a loan of Rs 1,411 crore given to BSNL, which was due to be paid.

Nokia deal

Earlier this week, BSNL signed up Nokia to roll out 4G service in 10 circles in the south and west zones. These 10 circles are: Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Telangana. There are about 38 million BSNL subscribers in these circles.

Note that Shrivastava told PTI that the telco had contracted ZTE for other 10 circles it operates in.

BSNL-MTNL merger

In August last year, Manoj Sinha clarified that “there is no proposal for merger of BSNL and MTNL”. He added that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had instead classified MTNL as a ‘weak central public sector enterprise’ and had initiated revival/restructuring/closure road map for MTNL. A few months earlier, the parliamentary committee on petitions had recommended a merger of BSNL and MTNL in Lok Sabha.