Project is estimated to be worth $700 million spread over 10 years

Taking a leaf out of Bharti Airtel’s deal with IBM, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd will soon invite bids from private players for managing its IT network.

The public sector undertaking is finalising the tender for the managed services contract estimated to be worth $700 million spread over 10 years.

The selected partner will take over BSNL’s entire IT requirements across all services, including fixed line and mobile billing.

Tender in December

Senior BSNL officials confirmed the development and said that a tender to invite bids will be floated by December. Global IT players such as IBM and Amdocs may participate in the bidding through system integrators. This is the first major tender from BSNL over the past five years. However, the last few tenders have been ridden with controversies with allegations of political interference and corruption jeopardising the contracts. For example, BSNL had issued a mega tender to buy GSM equipment to support 95 million new subscribers but this was scrapped after some of the bidder alleged foul play.

The company’s bid to appoint franchisees for WiMax technology-based broadband services also met with the same fate.

There are already murmurs that the new tender is also being drafted to favour one or two company. But BSNL officials are confident that this time the project will go through. “We will put in place procedures that will make sure that everyone gets a fair chance to bid,” the official said, adding that deal could be based on a revenue-sharing model than upfront payment.

Security concerns

There are also security concerns which BSNL has to deal with. In 2010, the company’s attempt to expand its telecom network through a managed outsourcing model was shot down by the Department of Telecom on security grounds.

The DoT had taken a view that since the Government was dependant on BSNL's networks during emergency, handing out telecom infrastructure to private players could compromise communication. It is not clear how BSNL will tide over this issue in the new tender.

thomas.thomas@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on October 15, 2013)
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