PSU Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has for the second time failed to secure bidders for a tender under which BharatNet phase one’s maintenance work would have been undertaken.
PSU Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has for the second time failed to secure bidders for a tender under which BharatNet phase one’s maintenance work would have been undertaken. The tender called for the upkeep of optical fibre cable used in BharatNet phase one, which is the government’s flagship project to provide broadband connectivity to nearly all of the 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats in the country. The bid was floated in April this year initially and then in June but to no avail, The Indian Express reported. The government has now opened the bid for the third time and if there are any bids this time, they will be opened on August 20. The government aims to complete the project via August 2021, according to a reply by Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad early in February.
While there is a lack of clarity on the use of Chinese equipment and vendors, the financial situation of the PSU could have also been a deterrent in securing bidders, officials said. “We are yet to receive the full and final payments from the revival package. Our plans to float government backed bonds are also stuck due to this (Covid) situation,” a senior BSNL official said, the newspaper reported. BSNL is laden with debt with various vendors seeking dues from it in thousands of crores. For instance, Finnish Nokia has sought to recover close to Rs 1,000 crore, and the Tower And Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA) has sought Rs 1,500 crore. Further, amid a prevalent anti-China sentiment, it is unclear whether Chinese equipment or vendors can participate in new tenders that have been floated by the PSU.
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The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had recently issued instructions to both BSNL and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited to cancel their 4G work tenders and rework them. The idea was to bar Chinese companies from applying as Indian and the Dragon country continued to have border face-off.