Worried that spat between ITI and C-DoT will hit nationwide project

Bharat Broadband Nigam Ltd, the company responsible for implementing the National Optical Fibre Network project, which aims to provide broadband connectivity to 2.5 lakh village panchayats, has sent a legal notice to ITI, threatening to reject the latter’s technology-supply bid.

The bid in question is for a tender to procure Gigabit-capable Passive Optical Networks (GPON), a fixed-line broadband technology that enables data access at over 100 Mps. It can be used to provide triple play (voice, video and data) services through fibre-based networks.

In the notice, Bharat Broadband has told telecom equipment company ITI that if its bid is accepted, the nationwide project could be jeopardised — because of a dispute between ITI and the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT). The two PSUs are battling it out over a technology transfer agreement.

The dispute

In 2011, ITI signed an exclusive transfer-of-technology agreement with C-DoT, which has indigenously designed and developed GPON technology.

Under the terms of the deal, ITI would manufacture equipment for GPON-based broadband services using C-DoT’s technology.

But the agreement turned sour after ITI, expressing doubts about the competitiveness of C-DoT’s products, wrote to the Telecom Department seeking permission to source GPON technology from foreign suppliers.

The deal has a ‘Relationship’ clause, whereby ITI is not allowed to have a technology tie-up with any other vendor for GPON products.

ITI was not comfortable with this clause but consented after C-DoT agreed to include a letter under which ITI could look for alternative partners if the products were found to be unsatisfactory — after the tender. This meant that ITI would have to compulsorily bid for projects with C-DoT as its partner. Now, ITI wants to break the mandatory clause and have an additional technology-transfer partner. The telecom equipment company reckons that it has a better chance to win the National Optical Fibre Network Project if it is allowed flexibility to pick a partner.

This has been rejected by C-DoT on the grounds that none of the other vendors with a similar agreement had raised any concerns. It has asked ITI to bring out specific issues and address them jointly.

Legal notice

Further, C-DoT wrote to Bharat Broadband stating that ITI’s bid should not be entertained. Taking cognisance of the complaint, Bharat Broadband’s legal counsel has sent a notice to ITI asking why its bid should be not rejected.

“…in case the issues raised by C-DoT are proved to be correct then there seems to be a strong possibility of a conflict of interest between C-DoT and ITI and a possible litigation between you two, entailing my client into the same for no fault on its part,” stated the legal notice sent by Bharat Broadband’s lawyers to ITI.

thomas.thomas@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 16, 2013)
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