DoT to set up committee to review 4G tender specifications
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will set up a six-member committee to decide on the tender specifications to upgrade government-owned telecommunications companies BSNL and MTNL’s 4G services, officials familiar with the development said.
The move comes shortly after Chinese troops killed 20 Indian soldiers close to the Line of Actual Control, and the central government thereafter instructed BSNL to not use Chinese equipment for the upgrade, which is likely to cost ₹7,000-8,000 crore. The new process will likely disqualify Chinese companies, an official said.
The DoT official said the committee will be headed by a senior DoT official and will have a representatives from BSNL and MTNL, two independent experts and another representative from the industry.
“The deliberations will start on Monday and new tenders are likely to be issued later next week”, said a DoT official. “Formal orders for cancellation of procurement of equipment from China will also be issued on Monday.”
The official said they will encourage procurement of domestic equipment and technology. “The Indian sector will aim to become atmanirbhar,” the official mentioned above said, referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s urge to industries to become self-reliant.
According to Mahesh Uppal, a consultant on telecom regulation: “India may be the second largest producers of mobile phones, but 75% of the internal components come from China, that will make it difficult to make the sudden switch,” Uppal said.
The five key players in the electronics manufacturing, he said, are Ercisson, Nokia, Samsung, Huawei and ZTE, with the last two being Chinese companies. Huawei was also due to participate in the 5G spectrum trials, which are still at the proposal stage, according to DoT officials.
The presence of Chinese equipment, said Uppal, is fairly “ubiquitous” in the market.
Another DoT official said that the specifications that will be mentioned in the tender process will be “realistic”.
“We will bear in mind the capabilities of the service providers in competition. They will also be futuristic, as it will be the entry point into 5G requirements,” the official said.
Separately, the DoT is also in consultation with private telecom service providers to encourage the use of equipment manufactured in India.
“These consultations will commence in the latter part of the week,” the official said.
Former DoT advisor (technology) R K Bhatnagar said that the Indian sector was equipped to handle the challenge. “The Centre for Development of Telematics, the government’s research and development think-tank for telecom, can be the key player on Core Network and their solution will be upgradable to 5G also in coming months. In the last decade they have done technology transfer covering multiple products and that too to multiple private and government (PSU) players.”
Bhatnagar added that under the Government funding and Public Procurement (Preference to Make in India) Order of 2017, domestic manufacturers have are given an advantage. “Domestic industries are given preference under the act,” Bhatnagar said. “In case the bids are higher, they are asked to match the lowest bid.”