Texas-based Mavenir has emerged as the main contender to provide 4G core technology to state-run telecom operator, BSNL, through ITI Limited which has selected the OpenRAN major following an open request for proposals (RFPs) for technology vendor selection.
State-run ITI already enjoys a 20% reservation in telco’s 4G tender, as a part of a policy initiative. It already has non-commercial tie-up Tejas Networks as well as system integrators – Tech Mahindra and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to deploy core and radio network for BSNL.
However, Mavenir’s selection didn’t go well with a section of home-bred companies and international vendors. They have now sought clarification from BSNL about bidding rules for local and international vendors.
“Yes, we participated in ITI’s open RFP invited for the selection of technology partners who own the technology, meet all technical conditions of BSNL’s 4G EoI and ready to Transfer Technology to ITI to enable them to manufacture the radio equipment locally in their plants,” a Mavenir spokesperson told ET.
The spokesperson added that Mavenir complied with all the technical conditions of the RFP and also offered the “best competitive financial bid” to secure the winning position. “We are expecting the letter of award soon, to partner with ITI for future deliverables.”
Mavenir spokesperson said that it commands a sound technical capability with over 3,000 employees in India. “The manpower is equipped with R&D Centre locally, for grooming the technology and fully compliant to all techno-commercial requirements of BSNL’s tender including Indian Core,” the spokesperson added.
A query sent to ITI remained unanswered.
Sources familiar with the matter said that Mavenir is transferring its intellectual property rights for 4G and 5G core technology to its India subsidiary, Mavenir Systems Private Limited.
“As per BSNL’s EoI and DoT’s guidelines, a company registered in India having an office in the country will be eligible for providing the core technology. Mavenir is now transferring the rights to the Indian subsidiary. Other vendors like Nokia, ZTE or Huawei haven’t done that,” a person familiar with the development said, adding that Mavenir is in talks with other home-grown vendors.
A senior executive working with a leading domestic telecom equipment maker questioned ITI’s move to finalise Mavenir. “When the Indian ecosystem is available then why local players aren’t considered. If Mavenir is allowed then give a chance to Huawei and ZTE as well. This will defeat the Aatmanirbhar vision of the government,” he added.
“ITI’s RFP was based on BSNL’s guidelines…what if the government changes certain guidelines to address concerns of players like Nokia over the source code and escrow account?…vendors have sought clarity,” another executive said.
In addition to Mavenir, state-run C-DOT (The Centre for Development of Telematics) and a lesser-known IT and telecom solutions company, PertSol, have claimed that they can provide 4G core for BSNL’s upcoming 4G network.
Sources said that C-DoT is working with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to further develop the 4G core. “TCS has put in serious resources and over 100 employees to further develop the C-DoT core. They have also added their own software and technologies like SON,” the first executive said.
Earlier, the eight-member committee, headed by DoT member (technology) K Ramchand said that a comprehensive Indian telecom stack needs to be put together with a focus on indigenous manufacturing and national security and to support BSNL’s 4G expansion.
Last month, BSNL invited fresh proposals from suppliers as well as consortiums for planning, testing, deployment and annual maintenance of 57,000 sites for upcoming 4G network across the country on a turnkey basis following the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) recommendation to include homegrown companies.
BSNL, however, had raised concerns over the DoT’s recommendation to use only local equipment for the 4G core network. It said that the indigenous core technology and equipment was unproven and will increase the overall deployment cost.
BSNL had also said that having two different cores for its network – one for existing 2G and 3G and another for 4G – would impact the quality of service as there will be two different cores.
“Mavenir is holding an Indian IPR for 4G and 5G core, and they are getting it manufactured by ITI and some others..They are considered Indian domestic manufacturer,” TEMA chairperson NK Goyal told ET. Telecom Live