India’s domestic gear vendors and IT companies have submitted bids to participate in state-run BSNL’s proof of concept (PoC) exercise to test indigenously developed 4G core and radio equipment and solutions.
The exercise will help BSNL determine eligibility of these vendors for its nationwide 4G network tender.
Gear vendors HFCL, ITI Limited, Galore Networks and IT companies Tech Mahindra, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), and engineering company L&T Limited on Tuesday submitted Express of Interest (EoI) as the master system integrators or MSIs with the state-run telecom operator.
According to a report by the Economic Times, HFCL, L&T Limited, and Tech Mahindra have joined hands with Mumbai-based Pertsol for core technology and US-based Mavenir for radio or RAN equipment to submit their bid for the PoC exercise.
State-run ITI and Tata Group’s TCS partnered with state-run C-DoT for core technology and Tejas Networks for radio or RAN equipment. The report said that ITI and TCS have also submitted a separate bid to test their own network technologies.
BSNL will soon finalise and issue a letter of intent (LoI) to qualified bidders, who will kick off the PoC exercise in several Indian cities to test their technology.
Notably, C-DoT and PertSol’s 4G core technology hasn’t been deployed commercially, as per reports. The technology has traditionally been deployed by companies like Huawei, ZTE and Nokia in India.
US-based Mavenir had previously claimed that it could provide 4G core for BSNL’s upcoming 4G network and was ready to transfer its intellectual property rights for 4G and 5G core technology to its India subsidiary, Mavenir Systems Private Limited. However, the DoT officials reportedly told MSIs not to choose Mavenir as the vendor for core technology.
Despite concerns over its origin, Mavenir’s radio has now been chosen by HFCL, L&T Limited and Tech Mahindra separately for the PoC exercise.
“Selected MSIs will have to do PoC. There are eight cities in total, and every MSI will get one city, where they will have to deploy RAN and core under the PoC to test their technologies. Once successful, they will be allowed to participate in the tender,” a source was quoted as saying by the publication.
BSNL expects to introduce 4G services within 10 months of successful completion of PoCs by local companies. The telco has already lost significant market share to Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea and cannot compete in the absence of 4G technology.
BSNL, which had invited applications from Indian companies to provide equipment for the rollout of 4G radio and core network, had previously 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.
The telco’s tender guidelines for the 4G network, which were released in January this year, mandated foreign vendors like Nokia, Samsung and Ericsson to deposit their source code for core and radio in an escrow account.
These vendors had raised concerns with the telco and threatened to boycott the tender, following which the DoT gave its nod to split the tender to allow domestic and foreign vendors to roll out the 4G services into two parts.
BSNL had last year cancelled the notice inviting tender (NIT) and 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 5 GSM expansion projects.