State-owned Indian telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) aims to have 3G mobile coverage in more than 400 cities by the end of March 2010, Dow Jones Newswires reports. The telco has announced that at present it has 856,000 3G subscribers in the 318 cities where it currently offers third-generation services. In addition, BSNL has said that it expects to have expanded 3G coverage to 760 cities by September 2010 in the first phase of its UMTS rollout. Uptake of the operator’s 3G service was initially slow; according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, having launched in February 2009 by the end of June that year BSNL has signed up just an estimated 35,000 3G subscribers.
In separate but related news, BSNL’s 93-million GSM line ‘mega-tender’ has been referred to Sam Pitroda, advisor to the prime minister on infrastructure and innovation, according to the Business Standard. The move comes after the Prime Minister’s Office instructed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to take such action following telecoms minister Andimuthu Raja’s request that the PM intervened in the matter. The tender, which was floated in September 2008, has met with a number of obstacles, including legal challenges from disqualified bidders and government intervention blocking Chinese vendors from providing equipment in border states. Currently the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) is looking into the controversies regarding the tender, and it is believed that the body had recommended scrapping the tender and issue of a new one. Mr Raja has, however, opposed such a move.