KOLKATA: Global telecom equipment makers Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia Solutions Networks, Huawei Telecommunications and ZTE have put in bids for supplying gear for Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited’s much delayed 1.6-million line, over Rs 400-crore GSM network expansion plans, a director of the state-run telecom company said.
The state-run telco, which runs mobile services in Delhi and Mumbai, lost nearly 2.5 lakh customers last month and is looking to spruce up GSM coverage on an emergency basis to hold on to customers. According to latest subscriber numbers released by Cellular Operators Association of India, MTNL’s subscriber base on August 31 was just a shade over 3.8 million.
“MTNL will award contracts to two vendors for handling GSM gear supplies on both 2G and 3G platforms in Delhi and Mumbai,” the executive told ET, adding that the vendors would be responsible for installation and maintenance. At present, Nokia Solutions Networks and Alcatel-Lucent maintain parts of MTNL’s 2G and 3G networks, respectively.
NSN’s India unit confirmed that it had submitted bids for supplying 2G and 3G network gear for MTNL’s upcoming GSM expansion and added that no reserve price on a per line basis had been fixed by MTNL since it was an open bidding exercise. Alcatel Lucent, Huawei and ZTE did not reply to ET’s emails seeking a confirmation on their submission of bids.
Industry circles familiar with the matter indicated that the two Chinese vendors — Huawei and ZTE — may have an edge over their European rivals as they are learnt to have put in aggressive bids, although this could not be independently confirmed from either the two bidders or MTNL.
Another top MTNL official, directly involved in the process, confirmed that technical evaluation is underway and that price bids would be opened in the first week of October.
This official also asserted that there were no security concerns or curbs on buying GSM network equipment from potential Chinese vendors, even though the project would involve the modernisation of MTNL’s Delhi network, which is used by all government bureaucrats and ministers for official communication.
In recent months, India’s security establishment has voiced concerns about deployment of Chinese telecom gear in national projects like the national fibre optic network (NOFN) venture. In fact, the home ministry had discouraged BSNL from procuring Chinese telecom equipment for network expansion in states having international borders with China, Bangladesh and Myanmar about five months ago. Earlier in the day, MTNL and stateowned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd decided to combine resources to grab more enterprise customers. The two companies inked a pact to share their telecom infrastructure for providing joint services to corporate customers.
The partnership would take care of mobile communications, infrastructure sharing and enterprise business for information technology and telecom services.
Under the partnership, MTNL and BSNL will share assets like buildings, mobile masts and international long-distance phone networks, the companies said in a joint statement.