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BSNL's 4G dream is mired in controversy

May 07, 2020 11:29 IST

Just to promote govt’s policy of Make in India, BSNL said, it cannot afford to procure sub-standard equipment from inexperienced companies, not having proven technology.

BSNL complained that when competitors were procuring world-class 4G equipment from experienced vendors, why should BSNL be compelled to procure locally.

The employees’ union of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) has approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop domestic telecom gear makers from scuttling the company’s revival plan by stalling a tender for sourcing 4G equipment.

In a letter to Modi, BSNL staff have said the complaint raised by the industry body Telecom Equipment and Services Export Promotion Council (TEPC) is a ploy to stall 4G equipment procurement and launching of 4G services by BSNL.

 

According to media reports, TEPC complained to the Department of Commerce that BSNL’s tendering process flouted the government’s policy of “Make in India” and favoured multinational companies.

BSNL staff said TEPC took exception to some conditions in the tender, which stipulates that bidding companies should have prior experience in setting up a mobile network for at least 20 million 4G lines and that potential bidders should have Rs 8,000-crore turnover in the previous two fiscals.

Both those conditions, BSNL staff said, were reasonable as they came within the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) guidelines.

The turnover of almost all the companies under TEPC was less than Rs 1,000 crore.

“BSNL cannot afford to procure sub-standard equipment from inexperienced companies, not having proven technology.

"Their product is not tested or validated so far.

"The Indian players do not have experience in managing large mobile networks, even if they have developed 4G technology.

"Further, the quality standards of their equipment have not been tested,” the letter said.

All the private operators - Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea - procured 4G equipment from MNCs like Nokia, Ericsson, ZTE, Huawei and Samsung.

BSNL staff said in the letter that when competitors were procuring world-class 4G equipment from experienced vendors, why should BSNL be compelled to procure locally.

The burden of supporting domestic manufacturers cannot be put on the shoulders of BSNL alone, in a highly competitive telecom market, they said.

BSNL staff requested Modi to intervene and ensure that the authorities concerned examine the matter in a time-bound manner and allow BSNL to go ahead with the 4G tendering process.

Photograph: Rupak De Chowdhury/Reuters

Megha Manchanda in New Delhi
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