60-m line expansion in GSM segment to follow soon

Thomas K. Thomas

BSNL had scrapped an order for over 1 million CDMA wireless lines placed on Chinese manufacturer Huawei, due to delays in delivery. It is not clear whether Huawei would be allowed to bid again.

New Delhi, March 17

State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has floated a fresh tender for procuring wireless equipment based on Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology for supporting 2.5 million lines.

The project is a prelude to the big-ticket 60 million line expansion plan in the GSM segment and comes after BSNL had withdrawn a 1 million line contract given to Chinese manufacturer Huawei.

The new tender, which will open on April 25, is for the latest in CDMA technology called Evolution Data Optimized (EVDO). The technology has been deployed by private CDMA-based operators Reliance Infocomm and Tata Teleservices and offers one of the fastest, fully mobile wireless Internet data solutions on the market. This will enable users to download complex files and view e-mail attachments at typical speeds of 300-500 kbps, capable of reaching speeds up to 2 Mbps.

Likely bidders

Major vendors including Lucent, Nortel, Motorola, Ericsson and ZTE are expected to bid for the project in association with an Indian partner. Earlier, BSNL had scrapped an order for over 1 million CDMA wireless lines which was placed on Chinese manufacturer Huawei due to delays in delivery. Huawei had partnered with Himachal Futuristic Communications Ltd for the project. It is not clear whether Huawei would be allowed to bid again.

Though BSNL has bet big time on GSM technology for its pan Indian cellular service coverage, the PSU is using CDMA to offer wireless in local loop (WLL) based telephone services especially in areas where it is difficult to reach fixed wire-line. For instance, WLL is being used in a big way by BSNL to roll out services in villages.

At present, BSNL has nearly 2.2 million subscribers using WLL (mobile) services. It added nearly 60,000 new users in January. According to the tender requirements, bidders should be Indian companies who will act on behalf of foreign manufacturers. The bidder and the foreign company should have experience to supply minimum 1 million lines of CDMA equipment such as mobile switching centre, base stations and core network equipment.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 18, 2006)
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