BSNL to revise 4G tender after ‘Make In India’ challenge

29 Apr 2020

Indian state-owned telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) will revise the terms of its 4G equipment tender, worth an estimated INR90 billion (USD1.2 billion), following objections that it violated the government’s ‘Make In India’ policy, the Economic Times writes, citing a ‘highly-placed source’. The tender was published in late March this year and covers the supply and deployment of 50,000 4G sites for BSNL and 7,000 sites for its sister company Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), but its strict eligibility requirements would exclude domestic manufacturers from participating, the Telecom Equipment Promotion Council (TEPC) argued. The agency challenged the requirements in letters to the heads of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), warning that the terms of the tender document represented a ‘serious policy violation’ and would limit participation to multinational firms such as Ericsson, Nokia and Huawei. The eligibility criteria included requirements to have LTE networks with more than a million subscribers in two countries and 3G networks with more than 5 million subscribers, also in two countries. Further, bidders were required to have minimum turnover of INR80 billion in each of the last two years.

The financial requirement may be left unchanged by the revision according to the source, however, which claimed that the criterion was in line with the Central Vigilance Commission’s (CVC’s) guidelines to ensure that vendors have strong financials.