The empowered technology group (ETG), headed by principal scientific advisor K Vijay Raghavan, has given the go ahead to BSNL to split its tender for rollout of 4G services into two parts. However, while MNCs as Nokia and Ericsson will be allowed to bid, Chinese vendors may not qualify to bid as the clause has been inserted saying, countries having borders with would not be allowed to participate.
Once the DoT agreed in-principle to Bharat Sanchar Nigam’s (BSNL) proposal to split its tender for rollout of 4G services into two parts, the ETG also gave permission.
The state-owned firm which is facing delays in floating a fresh tender ever since the first one was cancelled in March last year, had appealed to DoT that as part of the split, Part A comprising 50,000 sites should be strictly reserved for domestic vendors. In parallel, it should be allowed to float another tender — Part B — for the remaining 50,000 sites which should be like the usual tender where global companies like Nokia, Ericsson and others could participate. It had suggested that if by the time of the technical evaluation of the Part B tender if any of the Indian vendor was able to complete successfully trials of its technology (proof of concept), then they could also participate in it.
The DoT’s approval came because BSNL had written to it that its survival depended on early rollout of 4G services and so far there was no proven Indian core available. It had said that it apprehended that barring TCS, which has tied up with C-DoT to develop a core, others may not be successful. Even if domestic vendors were successful in trial runs, they would take further time to produce requisite quantities, which would further delay the rollout of its 4G services.
BSNL had said that as per the expression of interest floated by it, firms need to complete the trials in 4 months, but except TCS, most firms had sought for extension of the time frame to 6-8 months.
The company had said that it expected 4G rollout within a period of 10 months on successful completion of trials by local firms. Assuming that PoC got successfully completed in four months, the network could be rolled out after 14 months from that date. But, in case PoC was not completed within the specified timelines then rollout timelines would also get extended.
The problem for BSNL arose as a government-appointed committee had recommended that the core of the 4G network should be built by domestic vendors under a system integrator model and not global firms like Ericsson or Nokia. Further, 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.