A BSNL employee union on Wednesday extended support for the company's Rs 9,300 crore 4G tender that has a clause to facilitate procurement of network equipment from foreign companies and restrict purchase from Indian companies.
The All Unions and Associations of BSNL (AUAB) in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 5 said that Indian companies do not have experience of managing large mobile networks and the state-run firm "cannot afford to procure sub-standard equipment from inexperienced companies".
Domestic telecom product and equipment promotion body TEPC has charged BSNL of violating policy to give preference to indigenous technology companies and incorporating clauses that restrict the participation of Indian companies.
The Telecom Equipment and Services Export Promotion Council (TEPC) alleged that BSNL bypassed discussion with domestic companies and framed tenders norms in collaboration with multinational companies to keep Indian companies out of the bid.
It has alleged that BSNL tender is being construed as having technical specifications prepared in close coordination with MNCs to keep out the Indian companies and to get rid of 'preference to make In India' norms.
"4G being a state-of-the-art technology, BSNL cannot afford to procure sub-standard equipment from inexperienced companies, not having proven technology. Their product is not tested or validated so far. Indian players do not have experience in managing large mobile networks, even if they have developed 4G technology. Further, the quality standards of their equipment have not been tested," the union said in the letter.
The AUAB said that it will be unfair to direct BSNL alone to buy local 4G equipment, which is largely untested, while letting private players provide services with equipment supplied by global giants like Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei, Samsung, etc.
"If the domestic players are having proven technology, then why did they not insist when other private operators procured the 4G equipment? BSNL cannot afford to have another failed network deployment," the letter said.
TEPC has also raised security concerns in purchase of telecom network equipment from foreign companies. BSNL unions, however, called the security issue a lame excuse and questioned TEPC for not raising it when private players purchase equipment from foreign companies.
"When BSNL's competitors are procuring world-class 4G equipment from experienced vendors having proven technology, why should BSNL alone be compelled to procure substandard equipment, manufactured by inexperienced vendors, in the name of 'Make in India' policy. The burden of supporting domestic manufacturers cannot be put on the shoulders of BSNL alone, in a highly competitive telecom market," the unions said
The Commerce Ministry has asked the DoT and BSNL to put the tender on hold till the time TEPC complaint is not resolved and has also called for erring officials if found guilty of inserting clauses to restrict entry of Indian companies in the BSNL tender as per government rule.