Chinese telecom major ZTE, which until a few months ago was not allowed to supply GSM equipment to Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) due to security concerns raised by the government, is set to make an entry into BSNL’s GSM network. ZTE, along with Alcatel Lucent, has emerged as the lowest bidder in the GSM tender for installing 5.5 million telephone lines in northern and eastern zones.
The home ministry recently issued security guidelines, making it mandatory for all vendors to share their source code — the software on which hardware runs — with the government.
European giant Ericsson, which accounts for around 50% of BSNL’s existing network, withdrew from the tender citing its inability to meet the new security requirements. ZTE, Huawei, Nokia Siemens and Alcatel Lucent remained in the race.
The biggest challenge in terms of technology that BSNL is likely to face is the integration of a new technology with its existing network. The operator will have to shift the existing equipment to another location and install the new equipment.
“This is a massive exercise and in practice it is very difficult to implement,” said chief general manager of a state. “This is the reason that private operators generally avoid it.”
Intelligence agencies had earlier asked the government to ban telecom operators from using Chinese equipment in networks due to security concerns. As a result, BSNL had to cancel its tender of 93 million lines as Huawei’s removal left Ericsson the sole bidder in some circles.