Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) seems to be struggling again with its operations. State-owned telco got a cash influx of Rs 70,000 crore only six months back for the revival, and there are already talks about making more revival plans for the company. BSNL doesn’t offer 4G mobile services yet. The telco in an attempt to capture some share of the 4G market set out to build a 4G network of its own. So BSNL rolled out a tender on March 23 for procuring 4G equipment to be used for expansion. The value of the contract was roughly Rs 9,000 crore. With this equipments, nearly 50,000 sites were to be upgraded. But as always, things didn’t go the right way for BSNL.
Deployment Issues Raised by TEPC
BSNL has been only offering 2G and 3G services even in the year 2020. This puts the telco behind four years from the likes of Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio. So, to decided to undertake 4G projects. The contracts rolled out were comprehensive and included everything from planning, maintenance, supply, and engineering of the 4G networks. BSNL was about to get its break for 4G finally, but on April 15, TEPC alerted all the government offices about the unfair tenders which were rolled out by BSNL. TEPC stands for Telecom Equipment and Services Export Promotion Council. TEPC represents domestic companies which manufacture telecom equipment such as Sterlite, Tejas Networks, Vihaan Networks, and HFCL.
BSNL’s Tenders Ignored the ‘Make in India’ Initiative
‘Make in India’ initiative is a strong drive from the Modi government to help domestic manufacturers and service providers grow. But BSNL’s tender ignored this initiative and set strict policies for companies who could apply for tenders. Domestic manufacturers couldn’t participate because of policies such as - companies who have had an experience of setting up networks for at least 20 million subscriber base and more. At the same time, the tender going out to a foreign company would also mean there is a threat of non-India entities trying to steal data from Indian networks.
Not Learning From Past Mistakes an Issue
This is not the first time something like this has happened with BSNL though. In its drive to become the number one telco in India back in 2008, when BSNL was valued as the third biggest telco in India, BSNL sought to make a $10 billion investment to increase its network capacity by 94%. No sooner, allegations came hurling at BSNL for not paying attention to the irregularities on the tender. Long story short, two years down the line, in 2010, the whole project was scrapped, and it left BSNL crippling. The telco slid from the third position to fifth position in terms of most valuable telcos in India.
BSNL is Put Under Unfair Burden At the Moment
Back in 2008, the company was concerned with rolling out 2G networks when it was still profitable. But at the moment, when it is not profitable and seeking a revival route by establishing 4G networks around India, the telco is being objected. 4G networks will give BSNL a chance to fight against other big telcos in India and stay afloat. It is a little unfair to ask the telco to purchase the 4G equipment only from Indian manufacturers when other private players such as Ericsson and Nokia are not objected. If network security is a national issue, then why should the security threat be limited to the networks of BSNL only. BSNL can’t afford to face another network deployment failure.