India rejects BSNL core network tech from multinational vendors

BSNL core network India
Image by New Africa | Bigstockphoto

India’s Ministry of Communication has reportedly rejected BSNL’s proposal to use core network technology from multinational vendors like Nokia and Ericsson despite the state-run telco’s concerns over the reliability of core network technology from Indian gear vendors.

BSNL, which had invited applications from Indian companies to provide equipment for the rollout of 4G radio and core network, reached out to the Indian government seeking approval to “shun” core network technology from Indian vendors, claiming that the indigenous core technology is unproven and will increase the overall deployment cost.

“BSNL had sought a nod to shun Indian core network condition as mandated by the telecom department’s panel for 4G, but the government was not excited at the proposal,” a source was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.

By recommending core network technology from multinational vendors, the state-run telco wanted to hasten the commercial rollout of 4G services in the country.

As per the BSNL notice issued on January 1, the telco will now test the quality of telecom equipment from Indian vendors through Proof of Concepts (PoCs) before letting them participate in the 4G tender.

The publication reported that state-run C-DOT (The Centre for Development of Telematics), Mumbai-based PertSol and US-based Mavenir claimed that they could provide 4G core for BSNL’s upcoming 4G network.

Interestingly, Mavenir, despite being a US-based company, was chosen by India’s ITI Limited as the core network technology provider for BSNL’s 4G tender process. Mavenir is reportedly transferring its intellectual property rights for 4G and 5G core technology to its India subsidiary, Mavenir Systems Private Limited, to be eligible for the tender process.

However, various Indian and multinational vendors have now sought clarification from BSNL over Mavenir’s selection.

BSNL’s 4G tender was based on a technical panel’s recommendations, constituted by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). However, the lack of preparedness by Indian companies prompted the telco to seek the ministry’s intervention to offer relaxation in vendor selection to avoid further delay.

The telco told the government that the whole process would delay the commercial launch of the 4G roll out to the second half of 2022.

“The telco had expressed its inability to ascertain the proof of concept (PoC) on its 4G network by homegrown firms citing a period of four months that includes the time required by the vendor for installation and commissioning of equipment, as too short,” the publication reported.

Multinational vendors like Nokia, Samsung and Ericsson will not be able to provide a 4G core network to BSNL. However, they can bid for the 4G RAN after depositing their source code in an escrow account.

As per media reports, these global companies are unlikely to provide their source code for the BSNL tender due to security and business-related reasons, which will increase chances for home-bred vendors.

Last year, the telco cancelled the notice inviting tender (NIT). It reportedly barred China’s Huawei and ZTE from providing equipment for its 4G network after border tensions between India and China escalated.

Notably, the existing 2G and 3G network of BSNL has largely been built by Chinese vendors. European vendors Nokia and Ericsson have also provided telecom equipment to the telecom operator under phase 8 and phase 5 GSM expansion projects, respectively.

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