NEW DELHI: State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has finally come out with a detailed notice inviting e-tender, for planning, testing, deployment and annual maintenance of its much-awaited 4G network across four operational zones in addition to Delhi and Mumbai circles for 57,000 sites on a turnkey basis.
“BSNL intends to float a tender enquiry for planning, engineering, supply, installation, testing, commissioning and annual maintenance of 4G mobile network in north, east, west and south zones of BSNL, and Delhi and Mumbai LSA of MTNL on turnkey basis for tentative 57,000 4G sites along with associated elements,” the telco in a notice Friday said.
The state-owned service provider further sought proposals through the Expression of Interest (EoI) for prior registration for proof-of-concept (PoC) from the Indian companies showing interest to participate in the bidding process.
“Only the bidders who get themselves registered through this EoI, shall be eligible to participate in the upcoming 4G tender of BSNL, and hence, all prospective bidders of upcoming 4G tender of BSNL are necessarily required to submit the proposal through this EoI for registration, irrespective of technical proven-ness of their equipment,” it said in the document, seen by ETTelecom.
The development would, however, discourage multinationals such as Finnish Nokia and Chinese ZTE, the two existing partners and frontrunners for the network expansion of the fourth-largest telco.
“The company must own or have unrestricted , irrevocable access and license to modify the source code and provide software support for all future versions,” it said, and added that the the source code for core as well as RAN should be deposited in Escrow account, a requirement which is seen as a move to strengthen public network security.
It further said that if any Indian registered company should meet all other eligibility conditions except technical proven-ness of the equipment, then such companies may register for participation in PoC as per the provisions of this EoI so that on successful completion of PoC, their equipment meets technical proven-ness requirements for making them eligible to participate in the upcoming 4G tender of BSNL.
The registration fee is kept at Rs 500,000, and the telco has decided to go ahead with e-tendering process for seeking companies’ interest. However, no registration fee is required for the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).
The participation by domestic companies, however, had become a contentious issue between the public sector telecom company, citing unproven technology and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) which advocated the inclusion of homegrown companies in line with the Atmanirbhar Bharat or self-reliant India campaign.
“The revised tender document is in line with our demands, and is a step to support the domestic industry,” said Arun Gupta, director-general of the Telecom Equipment & Services Export Promotion Council (Tepc), and added that the local companies can even participate by way of Proof-of-Concept.
The telco had to scrap the notice for tender, it originally rolled out on March 23, following the allegations of restrictive conditions by homegrown companies led by Delhi-based group.
The new terms, according to Gupta, also ensured the applicability of the Centre’s Preference to Make in India (PMI) policy, and source code of software would be owned by the Indian company.
The fresh notice seeking proposals has opened the doors for homegrown companies to participate and initiate pilot programs even as the telco plans to go for a full-scale next generation commercial telecom network deployment, benefitting the local gear makers such as Sterlite Technologies, Tejas Networks and Vihaan Networks.
Further, the telco said that a system integrator or original equipment maker of both 4G radio access network (RAN) as well as core, for turnkey delivery of required 4G network , is eligible to submit the proposal as per the conditions.
“If the bidder is not the OEM of both 4G RAN as well as core then the bidder has to submit the bid as consortium with OEM of 4G RAN and/or with OEM of core.” BSNL in its notice added.
The commercial details indicated that the core offered shall be Indian and Intellectual Proprietary Rights (IPR) or license or copyright of the source code of the software of core elements shall be owned by the Indian company.
Over the year, the ambitious 4G network rollout has also attracted large public and private sector system integrators such as Tech Mahindra, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL), and ITI Limited.
Hailing the DoT and BSNL support for Atmanirbhar Bharat in upcoming data network, Sanjay Nayak, chief executive of Bengaluru-based Tejas Networks said that the domestic industry possesses all the requisite capabilities, and would step up to ensure success of the national mission and public telecom network.
The company, according to the notice document shall be registered and headquartered in India, and incorporated under the (amended) Indian Companies Act of 2013, and the prospective bidder should have an average annual turnover of Rs 2,500 crore during the last three years.
The bidder or consortium members and their respective parent company, according to the document, shall not have any equity stake or operating partnership in mobile segment with any other cellular operators except MTNL in India.
“The new tender is a major step forward towards giving an opportunity to Indian companies to design, manufacture and deploy in our telecom network. The technical specifications require mobile core network to be developed by an Indian company,” Abhay Karandikar, director, IIT-Kanpur said.
Karandikar, a member of the DoT-led expert committee, further said that it is high time, and also his expressed his gratitude to DoT secretary Anshu Prakash for department’s efforts in line with the Atmanirbhar Bharat.