BSNL, Reliance Jio testing network tie-up – Minister

State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd is currently testing an intra-circle roaming agreement with Reliance Jio in Karnataka circle, telecom minister Manoj Sinha said.

However, he did not clarify whether the agreement was to allow BSNL users to tap into Reliance Jio’s 4G service or to allow Jio users to access BSNL’s 2G service. However, the first scenario is more likely.

The tests come days ahead of BSNL’s rumored launch of 4G services.

The company is expected to launch its 4G services with around 10,000 base stations in the second half of January.

2G OR 4G

The company had initially tested compatibility with Reliance Jio to provide 2G support to the Mukesh Ambani-led firm.

Jio had initially explored the option of supporting a ‘fall back network’ in the form of BSNL 2G for people who wanted to make outgoing calls.

However, the plan was junked, reportedly due to difficulties in ensuring a seamless, smooth and fast handover from Jio’s LTE network to BSNL’s 2G network when a subscriber place a call.

Instead, the Mukesh Ambani firm decided to go with a VoLTE-only network.

Choosing VoLTE also helped the company make ‘voice calls free’, something that helped it sign up around 100 mln 4G subscribers in a year.

The latest move to test an intra-circle roaming agreement with Jio could indicate that the latter is trying to revive the idea, or it could have something to do with BSNL’s 4G launch.

4G LAUNCH

BSNL is preparing to launch its 4G services next month with just 10,000 towers, compared to about 200,000 towers employed by Jio.

As such, the company is unlikely to be able to meet demand from its customers.

An intra-circle roaming agreement — which is very similar to a network sharing agreement — will allow BSNL users to use Jio’s 4G network as their own.

In return, BSNL has to pay the Mukesh Ambani company for the data used by its subscribers.

Jio already has such an agreement with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications.

Though such agreements help companies to offer LTE services quickly, the prices charged by the reseller network will usually be higher than the prices charged by the upstream provider.

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