Intriguingly, at roughly $45 per line, the ZTE bid is around half the price quoted by Himachal Futuristic Communications Ltd (HFCL) for equipment from another Chinese vendor, Huawei, for MTNLs 4 lakh line WLL-CDMA Delhi tender. HFCL was L1 in the MTNL tender.
According to industry insiders, the L1 for BSNL is also way below prices paid by private WLL-CDMA operators in India which average around $86 per line. No private operator has opted for any Chinese equipment so far. At BSNL, ZTE also emerged as the second lowest bidder with another bid (submitted in partnership with ITI Limited) at Rs 169.8 crore, a difference of just Rs 1 lakh for the same project. The first bid was submitted by ZTE in partnership with United Telecom Limited (UTL). Interestingly, the difference between the ZTEs bids and the third, fourth and fifth lowest (L3, L4 and L5) bidder around Rs 100 crore is also being seen as an unusually wide gap by industry watchers. Hyundai is in the third place with Rs 263.2 crore.
The other Chinese equipment vendor, Huawei Technologies had also made two different bids: at Rs 277.8 crore in partnership with HFCL and at the same Rs 277.8 crore with Hexacom Communication at L4 and L5.
When contacted by eFE, the ZTE spokesperson in Delhi confirmed it had emerged the lowest bidder in the BSNL project. However, he defended the low financial bid saying that the companys confidence level is very high.
Refusing to go on the record on ZTEs pricing, a BSNL official said that the lowest bidder would be finally awarded the project only if it met all tender conditions. The purchase will kick off BSNLs first third generation (3G) WLL-CDMA Tarang telephone network. The tender for this project was floated over a year ago in July 2002.