BSNL considering scrapping latest GSM tender?

19 Sep 2011

State-owned Indian telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) looks set to cancel a tender for almost 15 million GSM lines after what it understood to have been a poor response from vendors. According to India’s Economic Times, the tender, which is valued at between INR50 billion and INR60 billion (USD1.03 billion and USD1.24 billion), has only attracted interest from two or three private vendors, according to an official from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) cited by the report. ‘One of the reasons for the low interest shown by the private parties could be that BSNL divided the whole country into six zones for this tender… (and interested parties) will bid for this in a segregate manner, rather than for pan-India,’ the unnamed source was quoted as saying. Despite the claims however, BSNL chairman and managing director R K Upadhyay reportedly rejected claims that the tender would be scrapped, with the executive saying: ‘As of now, there is no such plan to scrap the tender… The process is evolving.’

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, after a number of failed attempts in recent years to expand capacity, BSNL announced the tender for 14.37 million GSM lines in July 2011. With the telco having initially set a 24 August 2011 deadline for bids, it noted that the tender was for ‘a turnkey implementation of the 2G/3G/Long Term Evolution (LTE) network in the North, East and South zones comprising of planning, financing, engineering, supply, installation, testing, commissioning and annual maintenance of GSM based cellular network together with 3GPP R8 Core, IMS, IN, VAS, Radio and the supply, installation, testing and commissioning of infrastructure and associated items for Core/Radio sites.’ Should this latest attempt to tender for increased capacity falter it would mark the latest in a string of unsuccessful tenders in recent years. As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the telco’s May 2008 93-million GSM line ‘mega-tender’ was temporarily placed on hold in January 2010 after legal challenges by Finnish vendor Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN); the tender was eventually scrapped in March 2010. More recently, October 2010 saw reports ZTE and Huawei were competing against NSN and Alcatel-Lucent for a tender in which BSNL was seeking to add some 3.37 million mobile lines in the north of the country, with a further 2.13 million in the east. Despite reports that Alca-Lu and ZTE had emerged as the leading bidders, the tender stalled, before the June 2011 announcement by Mr Upadhyay that it had been cancelled.