BSNL to award contract worth Rs 1,000 crore to Nokia, among homegrown vendors
By siliconindia | Monday, 13 November 2023, 03:59:29 PM IST
A multi-year purchase order worth Rs 1,000 crore is about to be awarded to Nokia by the state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) for the supply of optical transport network (OTN) equipment. The deployment will be done through a local system integrator. the financial bids for the BSNL contract have already been opened and the "advance purchase order (APO) will be issued to a successful bidder" in the next few days. The other contenders for the contract were domestic gear vendors United Telecoms Limited (UTL) and Tata Group company Tejas Networks.
As part of the Phase-4 project, BSNL has awarded a contract to supply, install, and commission OTN on a turnkey basis at a pan-India level. The contract includes a three-year operation and maintenance (O&M) service, as well as an eight-year comprehensive annual maintenance contract (AMC). domestic telecom equipment manufacturer HFCL is leading the Nokia bid as the systems integrator. However, the move has been opposed by India's domestic telecom equipment manufacturers via an industry body, which has written to telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, seeking his intervention.
The decision made by BSNL to disqualify United Telecoms Limited (UTL) and Tejas Networks has caused disappointment among Indian companies who believe that it discourages Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India). According to Rakesh Kumar Bhatnagar, director general of Voice of Indian Communication Technology Enterprises, BSNL disqualified UTL and Tejas Networks on unfair grounds and altered the original terms and conditions to benefit foreign companies instead. Voice represents several Indian companies including Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Tejas Networks, HFCL, and VVDN. UTL partnered with the state-owned Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) to develop the telecom network's core, or brain, but the company was disqualified as it did not yet have the required 'trusted source' approval and had not provided a bank guarantee (BG).
BSNL has refused to consider the bid by UTL-C-DoT, stating that it doesn't have a trusted product that can only be obtained via a service provider. However, Bhatnagar has pointed out that this contradicts the government's vision of promoting India-made telecom gear. The tender terms require the supply of network elements only after they have been approved as trusted products by the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS). It is interesting to note that C-DoT, which is currently supplying core equipment to BSNL's ongoing next-generation (4G) network deployment, is part of a Tata Consultancy Services (TCS)-backed consortium.
UTL participated in the bidding process by offering its locally developed and manufactured products through its subsidiary, Priyaraja Electronics, which is a micro, small, and medium enterprise (MSME). According to Bhatnagar, UTL qualifies for a relaxation in earnest money deposit (EMD) conditions as per the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) guidelines. Bhatnagar also mentioned that the bid submitted by Tejas was nearly 21% higher than UTL's bid. However, Bhatnagar explained that Indian companies get a price relaxation of up to 20% under the Make in India (PMI) framework, and they can receive 50% of the order.
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