“BSNL is yet to accept the price offered by TCS, and a high-level meeting on the pertinent issue is expected to be convened soon,” a person privy to the matter told ETTelecom, adding that the private firm expressed its inability to proceed further basis offer made by the state-controlled telco.
Earlier this month, Mumbai-based TCS sought to enhance the network equipment supply cost in line with the increase in component pricing due to supply chain constraints, escalated labour wages, and continued rupee volatility against the US dollar.
On March 31, BSNL released a purchase order to procure network equipment for as many as 6,000 sites at a cost of Rs 560 crores, which according to sources, is even 56% lesser than the price point of phase VIII expansion offered to Finnish multinational Nokia in 2018.
The person in the know said that the system integrator has conducted a final trial in Jaipur using 850 MHz frequency band on Monday, and despite prevailing confusion over order price, is already readying for a “limited launch” for August 15, on the occasion of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav to commemorate 75 years of independence by Prime Minister Narendra Modi,
Industry insiders blame BSNL of conservative approach, saying that such only discourages vendors particularly homegrown companies who have invested in R&D activities, but are offered unviable price points that led to the cancellation of nearly 20 tenders during the last three years.
Few telecom startups such as Lekha Wireless and Saankhya Labs would also be providing low-powered radios to BSNL primarily for 4G connectivity in rural areas.
Experts however say that with TCS, being a sole supplier, a fair price discovery and meeting optimum service-level agreement (SLA) and maintaining network quality might be a challenge for the state-run operator in a longer run.
Queries to TCS and BSNL did not elicit any response.
Tata group company backed consortium that included state-run Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) was shortlisted to conduct proof of concept (PoC) in Ambala and Chandigarh following the withdrawal of rival confederations such as L&T, HFCL and Tech Mahindra.
In July last year, it was asked to test the network within a 120-day timeframe, and the deadline was later extended up to December 31, and later to January 2022.
In April this year, Minister of Communications Ashwini Vaishnaw said that BSNL was in final stages to work out the commercials involved in procuring 4G network equipment for 6,000 sites.
In January last year, BSNL had released a detailed notice inviting e-tender, for planning, testing, deployment and annual maintenance of its much-awaited 4G network across four operational zones in addition to Delhi and Mumbai circles for 57,000 sites on a turnkey basis, and sought proof of concept for Indian companies and consortiums willing to participate in its upcoming 4G tender, in order to test their network quality.
On a shorter scale, the 4G launch is expected in August while on a big scale, it is likely at the end of this fiscal year, BSNL chairman Pravin Kumar Purwar last month said, adding that the commercial talks with TCS would be finalised soon.
The public sector telco is also planning to procure network gear for another 50,000 sites, and is expecting its revenue to swell by almost 20% after a full-fledged next generation services foray in 2023-24.
State-driven telecom R&D firm C-DoT, which is providing core equipment for telco’s 4G network launch said that it could upgrade the network to 5G non-standalone (NSA) by the end of 2022, and to 5G standalone (SA) by 2023.
BSNL’s bid to launch commercial next generation services hit multiple roadblocks, and following homegrown companies crying foul, it had to change bidding conditions to include domestic vendors to demonstrate technological proveness, following the telecom department’s (DoT) technical committee recommendations.