BSNL’s 4G rollout: TCS may emerge as ‘unanimous choice’

S Ronendra Singh New Delhi | Updated on September 13, 2021

IT major seen as the strongest candidate

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has emerged as the top contender to partner State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) in the deployment of India’s first indigenous 4G network.

Senior officials told BusinessLine that in a meeting chaired by Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash last week between the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and BSNL, it was “unanimously suggested” that TCS could be the strongest candidate in the light of its successful deployment of the network for core testing in Chandigarh.

The rival contenders, including Tech Mahindra, HFCL and L&T, have recently informed BSNL that their trials with Pertsol would not be feasible because chances of failure are high. They have experienced many glitches during the technical discussions.

The sources said the consortium of TCS, government-owned research and development (R&D) firm Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) and Tejas Networks has reported a smoother and better trial run.

“Under the proof of concept (PoC), TCS, C-DOT and Tejas have recently deployed the network for core testing in Chandigarh. The first PoC is expected to be completed by November 30,” an official said. Sources said that work has started and they have ‘switched on’ the core network, and RAN (radio access network) has also been started as part of the trial. TCS is a big company and it can commit for a wider network support, the official added.

“They (TCS) are not looking only for BSNL project and this is not their end. They want to take it as a first step to get a strong foothold in the core telecom network solutions provider space,” said another official.

Officially, however, the government will not be more specific on the choice. Pravin Kumar Purwar, Chairman and Managing Director, BSNL, told BusinessLine, “Proof of concept is being implemented. TCS is one of the five firms.”

Purwar was also part of the meeting last week.

Security aspects

Industry veterans say that the deployment cannot be delayed much longer even as the government balances the security aspects of the project.

Earlier, plans involving Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE had to be shelved because of security and geopolitical concerns.

TCS’ claim is bolstered by developments such as its strategic partnership with Bharti Airtel for implementing even 5G networks solutions in India. Tata Group has developed a ‘state-of-the-art’ O-RAN based Radio and NSA/SA Core and has integrated a totally indigenous telecom stack, leveraging the group’s capabilities and that of its partners.

BSNL, in January, had issued a notice saying that it would test the quality of Indian telecom equipment before letting indigenous manufacturers participate in the 4G tender to be floated by the company.

It plans to procure equipment for 57,000 sites for 4G services.

Though it had floated a 4G tender worth ₹9,300 crore for procurement of telecom gear in March last year, it was cancelled later due to multiple reasons, including allegation from Indian companies that BSNL did not comply with preferential market access norms and is inclined towards foreign companies.

Published on September 12, 2021

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