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Samsung eyes BSNL’s nationwide 4G contract; ZTE, Nokia, Ericsson in fray for phase nine expansion

Telecom gear vendors Samsung, ZTE, Nokia, Ericsson and ITI are aiming to bid for state-run telco BSNL’s phase nine 4G expansion and upgradation plan for 50,000 new 4G sites in north, east, west and south zones and around 7,000 new sites for Delhi and Mumbai for MTNL.

Sources familiar with the matter said that except Huawei all other gear vendors have bought the tender in the past few weeks.

“All vendors had given presentations before the BSNL board before the lockdown. However, Samsung’s participation is surprising since it has been working with Reliance Jio in India exclusively,” a senior industry executive told ET.

“Samsung doesn’t have 2G and 3G technology and IMS. And, even if BSNL relaxes tender requirement for Samsung, this will not be viable as both capex and opex will rise. For instance, if BSNL wants a 2G and 4G base band unit in the same cell site, Samsung can’t do it and can only overlay,” a second person said.

Samsung has been the sole 4G wireless technology vendor for Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio in the country.

BSNL had issued the bidding document March 23 and kept May 8 as the last date for vendors to apply for contracts, while bids will be opened on May 9.

Sources, however, said that these dates will be extended due to the ongoing nationwide lockdown in the country since for face-to-face interaction is required for the pre-bid phase.

As per the bidding document, BSNL’s 43,000 2G and 3G sites will be upgraded to 4G.

The new tender involves equipment for network planning, engineering, supply, installation, testing and annual maintenance of 4G network.

ZTE, Samsung, Nokia, and Ericsson didn’t respond to ET Telecom’s queries.

China’s ZTE and Finland’s Nokia are already working with BSNL for its 4G expansion under phase eight in India. As of mid-December, BSNL owed Rs 1,300 crore to ZTE and Rs 1,200 crore to Nokia. Both these vendors had earlier threatened to withdraw support from the state-controlled telco over nonpayment of dues and had sought intervention from the top echelons of the government.

As per BSNL’s bidding document, the bidder or its parent company must be a manufacturer of 4G Radio Access Network (e-UTRAN), and must possess experience of planning, engineering, supply, installation, commissioning of at least a total of 20 million lines of GSM 900 and/or GSM 1800 network comprising of GERAN, MSC, SGSN, and GGSN.

“The experience sought can be from single or multiple networks. Only successfully completed contracts of the Bidder or its parent company shall be counted towards such experience,” as per the document.

As per the document, for phase nine, there will be four zones of BSNL namely North, East, South & West Zone, while the total the requirement of MTNL will be considered as fifth zone namely “MTNL Zone”.

A vendor with the lowest evaluated price of the technically and commercially responsive bids (L1) will be given the choice to select any three of the five zones for which the tender has been floated, as per the tender document.

The L2 bidder, accordingly, will be given the choice to select any one of the remaining two zones at L1 price. “In case L2 decline to accept the offer, the same shall be offered to L3 bidder and so on at L1 price through suitable derating. If all the remaining participating bidder(s) refuse the offer then it shall be obligatory on L1 bidder to choose one of the remaining two zones at L1 price,” the document said.

―Olt News

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