Communications Minister A. Raja has informed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the performance of state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has taken a hit because the company has not been allowed to buy equipment from the Chinese equipment maker Huawei Telecommunications India (Pvt) Ltd, following security concerns.
These concerns, however, don’t seem to apply to private companies. The Prime Minister’s Office uses services of private telecom companies that have not been barred from using Chinese equipment. It has also sought competitive tariffs from all telecom operators.
“…at present PMO is having Airtel connections for its mobile telephones,” a January 4, 2010 letter from PMO to telecom operators stated. “However, keeping in view the recent drastic change in the telecom tariff, it has been decided to explore the best available plan in offer, specific to requirements of PMO, and keep in view the best services being offered by various companies in this sector.”
In the January 6 meeting to review the performance of BSNL, Raja also said that BSNL should be allowed to procure equipment from Ericsson — the sole remaining bidder in its 93 million line tender, floated in May 2008. The estimated value of this tender: Rs 40,000 crore. The delay in buying equipment is causing capacity constraint and would affect BSNL’s expansion plans, Raja told Singh.
“The government decision of not allowing BSNL to procure Huawei equipment has stalled the procurement process,” Raja told Hindustan Times. “Now, it is claimed that Ericsson has become a single bidder. This is not true as Ericsson was one of the five bidders when the bids were submitted. So, BSNL should be allowed to buy its equipment.”
BSNL CMD Kuldeep Goyal, when contacted, declined to comment on the issue.
Earlier, the home ministry on the basis of a report by intelligence agencies, raised objections to installing equipment from Huawei in the border states. As there were only two qualified bidders — Huawei and Ericsson — Ercisson has become the only qualified bidder in North and East zones, while the West zone has no bidders at all.