BSNL recognized for its advocacy of domestic enterprises, is poised to greenlight a hefty of Rs 1000 crore contract to Finnish tech giant Nokia. This agreement focuses on acquiring and positioning optical transport network (OTN) equipment and managed by a local system integrator. This move seems at odds with the government’s emphasis on Aatmanirbharta (self-reliance).
The decision to overlook homegrown contenders like United Telecoms Limited (UTL) and Tejas Networks in favor of Nokia has stirred controversy. Rakesh Kumar Bhatnagar, director general of Voice of Indian Communication Technology Enterprises, highlighted BSNL’s seemingly unjust disqualification of UTL and Tejas Networks. Allegedly, the original terms and conditions were altered to accommodate foreign vendors, casting a shadow on the telecom operator’s purported commitment to boosting indigenous companies.
UTL’s exclusion from the bidding process stemmed from its absence on the government’s ‘trusted sources’ list. This action has provoked worries about BSNL’s motives, especially in overlooking a proposal from UTL, which had cooperated with C-DoT. BSNL is presently engaged in deploying indigenous 4G technology with the aid of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), C-DoT, and Tejas Networks.
The tender specifications for the current project stipulate inclusion in the Trusted Sources list of the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS). Despite these prerequisites, foreign entities were permitted to participate, given the order’s value surpassed Rs 200 crore.
BSNL is on the verge of issuing an advance purchase order (APO) to the winning bidder imminently. Notably, Tejas Networks had previously submitted a solitary bid, but BSNL revoked it, citing regulations that prohibit a single bidder scenario.
BSNL’s selection of Nokia over local options like UTL and Tejas Networks for this substantial contract has stirred discussions, prompting uncertainties about its compatibility with the country’s self-reliance ambitions. This decision appears conflicting with BSNL’s proclaimed commitment to empowering homegrown firms and fostering self-sufficiency within the telecom sector.