BSNL may consider Jio Platforms for its 4G/5 upgrade

indigenous 4G BSNL Jio

India’s state-run telecom operator BSNL is reportedly considering to tap Jio Platforms to source 4G and 5G technology for its national network upgrade – which would be a blow to the consortium led by TCS which is currently the frontrunner to win the contract.

BSNL – which currently offers 2G and 3G services – is reportedly facing issues with the TCS-Tejas-CDoT consortium, which the telco had previously finalised for its 4G upgrade in line with the Indian government’s vision to support indigenously developed telecom technologies.

However, the consortium has reportedly pitched higher than expected prices to supply the equipment and technology for the project.

Consortium bids exceed BSNL cap

India’s TOI, citing an internal BSNL assessment, reported that prices quoted by the Tata Group companies are higher than the estimates prepared by BSNL by somewhere between Rs 4,316 crore ($526 million) and Rs 6,840 crore ($834 million).

The consortium’s bids have exceeded Rs 20,000 crore ($2.44 billion) in all the options that it has presented, though BSNL set a cap at Rs 17,173 crore ($2.09 billion).

The internal assessment report suggests that Jio Platforms – the parent company of Reliance Jio – should be considered, as it has developed its own 4G and 5G end-to-end stack, including core and RAN technologies.

“It has been learnt that Reliance Jio has developed and deployed indigenously developed EPC (4G core), which is also upgradable to 5G. Possibility for partnering of any system integrator with Reliance Jio can be explored for deploying such core in BSNL network. The workability of such a mechanism needs to be deliberated upon at the government of India level,” the publication reported citing the internal document.

TCS consortium not out yet

The internal report also suggested other Indian vendors and systems integrators to provide equipment and related technologies for the 4G network modernisation project.

India’s HFCL, L&T, Tech Mahindra had also successfully executed a proof of concept for the project, but the government went with the TCS consortium. The ongoing pricing issue could further delay the 4G modernisation project by 18 months.

Despite the pricing issue, the TCS consortium can still win the final contract if their prices are approved by the Indian government, which itself needs to fund the additional capex.

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