BSNL seeks PM's help in preventing rivals from scuttling firm's revival

All private operators, including Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea are procuring their 4G equipment from domestic vendors, but only from multinational companies
Employees’ union of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd has approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop domestic telecom gear makers from scuttling the company’s revival plan by putting a spanner in the tender for sourcing 4G equipment.

In a letter to PM Modi, BSNL staff said the issue raised by the 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.

According to media reports, TEPC complained to the Department of Commerce that BSNL’s tendering process had was in contravention of the govt's “Make in India”policy and was heavily in favour of multinational companies.

Staff members said that TEPC had taken exception to some of the conditions of the tender, which stipulate that the bidding companies have a prior experience of having set up a mobile network for at least 20 million 4G lines and said that national security would be compromised if BSNL purchased 4G equipment from multi-national firms.

The condition laid down by BSNL that a company which participates in the bidding should be having the experience of having provided 20 million 4G lines, is reasonable and is well within the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) guidelines, said the letter.

The Rs 8,000 crore eligibility criteria is in line with CVC guidelines which say that vendors should have strong financials. The turnover of almost all the companies under TEPC is 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 private operators, including Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea are procuring their 4G equipment from domestic vendors, but only from multinational companies like Nokia, Ericsson, ZTE, Huawei, Samsung, etc as domestic companies do not have 4G equipment of high quality and their products are not tested.
When BSNL’s competitors are procuring world class 4G equipment from experienced vendors having proven technology, why should BSNL alone be compelled to procure substandard equipment, manufactured by inexperienced vendors, in the name of “Make in India” policy, the letter asks.

Citing the recent award of a $ 1 billion contract by Airtel to Nokia, for the supply of 4G equipment, the letter said that the burden of supporting domestic manufacturers cannot be put on the shoulders of BSNL alone, in a highly competitive telecom market. The “Make in India” policy should be made uniformly made applicable to all the service providers and not selectively to BSNL alone, the letter added.

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

"BSNL will have to pay a heavy price for any more delay on the part of the authorities. Launching of 4G services is the lifeline for BSNL and the first and foremost requirement for BSNL’s revival," it said.

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