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Cisco explores options to participate in BSNL’s 4G tender

BSNL’s initiative to allow local equipment companies to bid for its 4G equipment after quality tests of their products will pave the way for domestic players, reducing India’s dependence on global firms.Premium
BSNL’s initiative to allow local equipment companies to bid for its 4G equipment after quality tests of their products will pave the way for domestic players, reducing India’s dependence on global firms.

  • BSNL had invited expressions of interest (EoIs) on 1 January seeking prior registration or proof of concept from Indian telecom equipment manufacturers interested in participating in its upcoming 4G tender

New Delhi: US-based Cisco Systems, Inc., is exploring all options to participate in state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd’s (BSNL) tender for 4G wireless service, which the government expects to be rolled out in 18-24 months.

“We are exploring all options available. We will see how things pan out for us and we will work on that. BSNL and MTNL are important customers, and we will see what’s there for us to participate so that we get the best outcome for both the clients," said an official at Cisco, requesting anonymity. MTNL is Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd, another state-owned telecom operator.

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BSNL had invited expressions of interest (EoIs) on 1 January seeking prior registration or proof of concept from Indian telecom equipment manufacturers interested in participating in its upcoming 4G tender, minister of state from communications Sanjay Dhotre informed the Parliament last week.

BSNL’s initiative to allow local equipment companies to bid for its 4G equipment after quality tests of their products will pave the way for domestic players, reducing India’s dependence on global firms.

Finland’s Nokia, Sweden-based Ericsson, South Korea’s Samsung, and Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE are a handful companies that supply end-to-end equipment for wireless networks, while US-based Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and Cisco are partly present in India.

The government in January said only companies registered and based in India can bid for BSNL’s 4G core network. The notice said the core shall be Indian and the intellectual property right (IPR) or licence/copyright for the source code of the software should be owned by an Indian firm, and it must have unrestricted, irrevocable access and licence to modify the source code and provide software support for all future versions of the software.

A foreign vendor will be able to bid for BSNL’s 4G core network provided it shares the licence/copyright for the source code of the software it deploys. This may act as a deterrent as no company will be willing to share its source code, which will rule them out from bidding, a government official told Mint.

The Union cabinet approved the revival plan for BSNL and MTNL in October 2019 to turnaround the two money-losing companies. This included administrative allotment of spectrum for 4G services through budgetary allocation to BSNL, a voluntary retirement scheme to cut employee cost and asset monetization.

The merger and revival plan, which was estimated at 69,000 crore, included capital infusion of 20,140 crore by the Centre to meet the cost of spectrum for BSNL’s 4G roll-out. The government also agreed to bear the goods and services tax (GST) amount of 3,674 crore on the overall spectrum cost. The turnaround plan included issuing sovereign bonds worth 15,000 crore to be serviced by the two companies. Besides, assets worth 38,000 crore will be monetized in four years.

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