BSNL scraps 4G equipment tender to keep Chinese companies at bay

Topics BSNL | 4g technology | 4G network

Last month, after 20 soldiers were killed by the Chinese troops in Galwan Valley of Ladakh, the Department of Telecommunications had directed BSNL to exclude Chinese gear makers from supplying 4G telecom equipment.
After banning  Chinese apps, the government has decided to scrap its March 23 tender to source fouth-generation (4G) equipment for network upgrade of state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL).

According to sources, BSNL has been asked to re-tender the order, which will have specifications regarding encouraging domestic telecom equipment makers to participate, but the move is being seen as keeping the Chinese gear makers — Huawei and ZTE at bay. 
According to an earlier BSNL notification, the tender was “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 (licensed spectrum access) of MTNL on turnkey basis”.

According to a senior official, BSNL has been asked to re-tender the contract for 50,000 BTS (base transceiver station) for network upgrade. BSNL is in the process of upgrading its network to 4G and BTS that facilitates wireless communication plays a crucial role in it.

Last month, after 20 soldiers were killed by Chinese troops in Galwan Valley of Ladakh, the Department of Telecommunications had directed BSNL to exclude Chinese gear makers from supplying 4G telecom equipment.

In May, BSNL employees had approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop domestic telecom gear makers from scuttling the firm’s revival plan by putting a spanner in the tender for sourcing 4G equipment. 

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

All private operators, including Reliance Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone Idea are procuring their 4G equipment from multinational companies like Nokia, Ericsson, ZTE, Huawei, and Samsung, among others. 

BSNL would be the last of the telecom companies to join the 4G bandwagon as the company prepares to compete with the likes of Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea. The exclusion of Chinese telecom equipment suppliers will further delay the 4G journey for BSNL.

A Bloomberg report on Thursday said the government is likely to advise other telecom operators to shun Chinese equipment, too. The report, quoting people with knowledge of the matter, said the telecom ministry had approached private firms, including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, and Vodafone Idea on their use of Chinese network equipment. A telecom ministry spokesperson was not immediately available for a comment.

The telecom ministry met the private operators recently and sought their views on the impact of banning Chinese equipment on costs for roll-out of their proposed 5G networks, the people said.  

(With inputs from Bloomberg)

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