In a major victory for Chinese equipment suppliers in the country, government-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has included Huawei and ZTE in the new tender for GSM networks in North and Eastern zones. The tender includes strategically-sensitive states of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the North East and Assam.
The other group of suppliers are European players Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Network (NSN) and Alcatel Lucent.
BSNL has floated a tender for procuring equipment and installing a GSM network of 5.5 million telephone lines in Northern and Eastern zones.
"We have followed all security guidelines of the government in the new tender for 5.5 million GSM lines," BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Gopal Das told Hindustan Times.
"Sealed tenders, on rupee payment basis, are invited on two-stage bidding system from M/s Alcatel-Lucent India Ltd, M/s Ericsson India Private Ltd, M/s Huawei Telecommunications (India) Co. Pvt Ltd, M/s Nokia Siemens Networks Pvt Ltd and M/s ZTE Telecom India Pvt Ltd," the tender says.
Earlier, intelligence agencies had asked the government to ban telecom operators from using Chinese equipment in their networks due to security concerns. IB also said that Huawei is controlled by the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
This was one of the reasons that BSNL had to cancel its tender of 93 million lines as Huawei's removal left Ericsson the sole bidder in some circles.
However, in its new security guidelines released last month, the government made it mandatory for vendors to submit their access source codes in an escrow account, making it available to intelligence officials. However, ownership would remain with the vendor.
European companies are opposed to this proposal. Ericsson has already expressed its concern to the government. But where European companies are hesitating, the Chinese are spotting an opportunity.