State-owned BSNL has tied up with Japanese telecom giant NTT and Softbank for technology on 5G and deployment of Internet of Things devices (IoT), the PTI reports. BSNL’s managing director Anupam Shrivastava said, “Under the agreement, we will look at solution specially for the smart cities.”

This agreement seems to be a small part of what BSNL — which hasn’t yet started its 4G rollout — is planning with Softbank. As the Economic Times reported in April, the telco is in talks with Softbank and a consortium of other companies to work on OneWeb, a net of satellites that will blanket the earth to provide internet connectivity in under-connected areas. NTT also agreed in February to work with BSNL to create a ‘5G test bed’.

“We are in advance stages of starting 5G field trials. Government is in agreement to provide us 5G spectrum for trials. We expect to start field trials very soon,” Shrivastava was quoted as saying at the 5G Congress.

Government’s 5G push

The state-run telco’s 5G deals come even as it hasn’t rolled out 4G speeds. Its private competitors, meanwhile, are grappling with Jio, which doesn’t have any legacy equipment to upgrade. Vodafone–Idea’s networks have been largely upgraded to 4G, and so have Airtel’s. But while those operators are closer to being able to increment their systems to 5G, they argue that their financial conditions are not suited to this push right now. As telecom operators consolidate, their revenues are narrowing even as data tariffs remain competitive. Last week, telecom CEOs resisted the government’s aggressive 5G push. Vodafone–Idea’s Balesh Sharma said that the government needs to restore the sector’s financial health.

The government has moved quickly to make the 5G rollout happen, though. Even as the ITU finalizes its standards for 5G, the government said that spectrum for 5G may be sold near the end of this year. That is sure to pinch established telecom operators, whose earnings have been taking a beating in the last two years.