BSNL 4G tender: DoT may have to seek PMO’s help

By: |
December 25, 2020 7:00 AM

Telco states conditions relating to domestic vendors not feasible

The 2G/3G network has been built by Nokia and ZTE.The 2G/3G network has been built by Nokia and ZTE.

It seems that the department of telecommunication (DoT) may have to approach the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to resolve the impasse related to finalisation of BSNL’s 4G tender. The matter is stuck as a DoT-appointed technical committee has recommended that the core of the 4G network of the company should be built by domestic vendors under a system integrator model and not by global firms like Ericsson or Nokia.

Further, the committee has laid down that the IPR or licence/copyright for the source code of the software should be owned by an Indian company, 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. The source code should be deposited in an escrow account and should be the same as the version deployed in the field.

Now, BSNL has expressed helplessness on three grounds. First, it has said that it does not have the methodology to verify that the software version deployed in the field is the same that has been deposited in the escrow account. It has also said that it does not have the competence or confidence on the subject of source code compilation with non-proprietary compilers.

Second, the committee while recommending definition of “Indian core”, has mentioned that “in addition, the company should be incorporated, registered and headquartered in India”. BSNL has said that it will be challenging to verify the “headquartered in India” clause as the same is not mentioned in certificate of registration. It has also said that the recommendation of the committee on “Indian core only” seems to be in deviation with the PMI (preference to make in India) guidelines as circulated by the department for promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT).

Third, having two separate cores – existing core for 2G/3G and new core only for 4G – would lead to formation of two different and isolated island networks within the same geographical area which will result into many challenges including adverse impact on quality of service to customers. The 2G/3G network has been built by Nokia and ZTE.

Since the recommendations of the technical committee have been framed under the overall framework put in place for the tender by an empowered group on telecom (ETG) headed by the principal scientific advisor, K VijayRaghavan, DoT feels that it needs to approach the PMO for appropriate advice on how to proceed further.

The matter needs resolution fast as in the absence of it the specifications of the tender cannot be finalised. Further, the finalisation of the tender is already running late – the first one was finalised in March but was cancelled in July as it was felt that the specifications were loaded against the Indian players.

BSNL has flagged that further delays in the tender, which could stretch to more than a year if it is expected to meet all the conditions of the technical committee, would lead to loss of subscribers and revenue for it and it should be suitably compensated for the same.

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