What’s up with… BSNL, EE, Open RAN

  • BSNL gets a very valuable lifeline
  • EE still top of the UK mobile tree
  • Open RAN market value forecast grows

In today’s industry news roundup: India’s state-owned operator BSNL gets a massive financial shot in the arm from the government; EE retains its RootMetrics crown; Dell’Oro ups its Open RAN market value forecast; and much more!

Indian state-owned operator BSNL, which has been in a parlous financial state for some years, is being given a massive financial shot in the arm, and handed a very useful merger partner, by the country’s government. The Indian cabinet announced that Bharat Broadband Network Ltd (BBNL), which operates a 567,000km fibre network that provides connectivity to 185,000 rural villages, is to be merged with BSNL. In addition, BSNL has been allocated a “revival package” of cash and assets worth more than 1.64tn rupees (US$20.5bn). You can read the details of the revival package in this announcement by the Indian cabinet office. The Indian government is also converting 330bn rupees (US$4.1bn) of money that BSNL owes in various dues and taxes into state-owned equity. The move will effectively ensure, at least for a while, that BSNL remains as a viable operator, which can try to compete against the privately owned Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and struggling Vodafone Idea, which are currently engaged in the country’s 5G spectrum auction (in which BSNL is not participating) and which attracted an extraordinary amount of bidding on the first day, with 1.45tn rupees ($18.2bn) of bids tabled during four rounds of bidding. The government believes the measures will even enable BSNL to become a profitable operation by 2027, but that is asking a lot when the beleaguered operator is competing against the likes of Jio. The Indian telecoms services market has been transformed in the past decade, shrinking from a dozen network operators to (effectively) just four, and there had been a danger that number might drop even further, a situation that would have been disastrous from a consumer choice perspective in a country with more than one billion mobile connections and a population that is growing so fast it is expected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country in 2023 – see As India grows and develops, so its telecom sector plays an ever more vital role

EE, the mobile division of the UK national operator BT, has retained its crown as the leading mobile operator in the UK, according to RootMetrics, which performs ongoing, detailed tests of mobile services in multiple countries. “With consistently fast speeds and strong results in general, EE remained the top-performing operator in the first half of 2022,” noted RootMetrics. “EE won or shared every UK-wide RootScore Award, while also earning by far the most awards across the nations and in major cities. EE also continued to provide users with an excellent combination of 5G availability and performance,” it added. But EE wasn’t the only operator to attract praise: “Three’s speed results improved since H2 2021, and the operator continued its trend of delivering great text results. Three’s 5G showed excellent progress since last time, registering broader 5G availability and faster speeds in most of the 16 markets we tested,” noted RootMetrics in this analysis. Naturally, EE was quick to tell the world how absolutely fabulous it is  – and why not?

The Open RAN market is going to be bigger than previously expected, according to research house Dell’Oro. The company has revised its forecast to account for better-than-expected investment and “improved momentum,” and now expects Open RAN equipment (radio and baseband products, but not associated professional services) to be worth almost $20bn during the 2022-26 period; and for Open RAN products to account for about 15% of the total RAN market by 2026, which would (according to the TelecomTV back-of-the-envelope calculation) value the market at between $6bn and $6.5bn by that year. “The Open RAN movement continues to trend in the right direction,” stated Stefan Pongratz, vice president and analyst at the Dell’Oro Group. “At the same time, we have three separate Open RAN waves right now and they are not all moving at the same pace – greenfields and early brownfield adopters are deploying Open RAN aggressively while the remaining brownfields, which also make up the largest part of the market, remain more cautious navigating this transition,” he noted in this announcement.  

T-Mobile US continues to grow its customer base and its revenues. The company reported second-quarter sales of $15.3bn, a year-on-year increase of 6%, and the addition of 1.7 million post-paid customers. The operator ended June with just over 110 million customers, including more than 1.5 million for its fixed wireless access (FWA) broadband service. “Our relentless focus on putting customers first delivered yet another outstanding quarter for T-Mobile with industry-leading postpaid and broadband customer growth, including our highest ever postpaid account adds in company history,” said CEO Mike Sievert, who didn’t mention the $350m in compensation the operator has agreed to pay customers affected by a 2021 cybersecurity breach (so it’s not all rainbows and unicorns…). For more on T-Mobile’s Q2 performance, see this extensive press release 

SoftBank has entered into a capital and business alliance agreement with Japanese company Marindows for the digitalisation of the maritime industry. The companies will create an offshore broadband infrastructure on ships and will aim to enhance the safe operation of small vessels by introducing satellite phone solutions supporting SOS transmission, location reporting and two-way communication. Within the partnership, SoftBank will deliver a cloud environment as a basis of an integrated marine digital platform. Find out more from the company’s press release here (in Japanese).

Staying in Japan – operator KDDI announced it has joined the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) earlier this month, to help it achieve its mission to build a healthy global society. By joining the initiative, the Japanese telco has pledged to place efforts into sustainability principles, including the protection of human rights, the elimination of unfair labour practices, the prevention of corruption and its response to environmental challenges. KDDI noted that its philosophy is shaped by the principles of respecting human rights in business activities, reaching carbon neutrality and strengthening its governance based on business diversification – see more, here (in Japanese).

South Korean operator KT Corporation is going against the grain by investing (successfully, it seems) in an area that has proven expensive and challenging for telcos over the years – original content. The operator set up KT Studio Genie in March 2021 to oversee its content and media strategy and now finds itself with Extraordinary Attorney Woo, a South Korean TV series about a rookie lawyer with autism spectrum disorder, reports The Korea Bizwire. The operator announced in April that it planned to invest 500bn Korean won (KRW) (US$380m) in original content production over the next three years. 

In an effort to salvage the operator’s reputation following the recent disastrous service outage, as well as keep alive its hopes of a merger with Shaw Communications (a deal that is already on shaky ground), Canadian operator Rogers Communications has pledged to invest C$10bn in its networks over the next three years and will undertake a review of its entire existing infrastructure. For more, see this apology and plea for restored confidence and trust from CEO Tony Staffieri.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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