India’s government earmarked INR890 billion ($10.8 billion) for the allotment of spectrum across four bands for state-run BSNL to enable the struggling operator to launch nationwide 4G and 5G services, The Economic Times reported.

The infusion covers spectrum in the 700MHz, 2500MHz, 3300MHz and 26GHz bands.

Communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told the newspaper past revival measures enabled BSNL to start booking operating profit in fiscal year 2021-2022 (the period to end-March 2022) and reduce its debt.

It is expected to be debt-free in three years.

The government said in January BSNL will launch 5G service by March or April 2024, with 4G coverage currently available in a limited number of service areas.

BSNL faces a huge task of competing with the incumbents, which have nationwide LTE coverage and for Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel sizeable 5G footprints.

GSMA Intelligence figures showed BSNL ended March with 103 million mobile connections, behind Reliance Jio with 439 million, Bharti Airtel with 335 million and Vodafone Idea with 202 million.