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BSNL scraps 4G tender; govt bans 59 Chinese apps

2 Jul 2020

State-owned full-service provider Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has cancelled a 4G network upgrade tender, reportedly due to growing pressure to exclude Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE from the process. The Economic Times writes that the INR87 billion (USD1.2 billion) tender for the upgrade of 49,300 sites to 4G and the installation of 7,000 new sites was scrapped with no explanation from the telco. The paper notes, however, that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had expressed ‘extreme displeasure’ over the inclusion of the two Chinese firms, amidst growing tension between Beijing and Delhi. Local vendors had also challenged the tender, meanwhile, on the basis that it did not adhere to the principles of the government’s ‘Make in India’ policy as the conditions effectively excluded local suppliers from participating. An unnamed source was cited as saying that a new tender will be published that will prioritise local suppliers.

In a related development, the government banned 59 applications from Chinese companies earlier this week on the basis that they had been ‘engaged in activities prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, defence, security of state and public order’. Commenting on the matter, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad noted that ‘emergency power has been exercised and the legal process has been followed’. The minister went on to state that the ban – which included popular video sharing app TikTok, and messaging platform WeChat – represented a ‘great opportunity’ for Indian app makers.

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