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State-Run ITI Associates With Tejas Networks, C-Dot To Establish 4G BSNL Network

Thursday, 21 January 2021, 03:25 Hrs

State-run ITI Limited has collaborated with the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT), India's indigenous technology wing, and homegrown Tejas Networks to arrange core and radio network for Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited's (BSNL) fourth generation or 4G services foray, as part of a pilot initiative.

"This (BSNL supply) is an opportunity for us. We are looking at Indian companies that can transfer technology so that we can manufacture equipment," RM Agarwal, chairman, ITI Limited told ET Telecom, adding that it has already partnered with C-DoT for core, and Tejas Networks for radio access network (RAN) for Proof-of-Concept (PoC).

Agarwal-headed public sector company is aggressively eying to supply next-generation of telecom gear to BSNL in line with the Centre's ambitious Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) initiative that aims to reduce country's dependency on imports.

"Indian companies are capable of supplying core and radio on a turnkey basis as indicated by the state-owned telecom operator. We are ready to partner with Indian companies that meet tender conditions, and have already invited proposals from them," the top executive said.

Last week, ITI floated a request for proposal (RFP) inviting domestic companies to jointly bid for BSNL's 4G equipment supplies, and enjoy's a 20% reservation in telco's order, as a part of a policy initiative. It has already entered into pacts with large system integrators - Tech Mahindra and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

"Once we start Proof-of-Concept (PoC) with local companies, then we can decide the services part keeping strict service-level agreements (SLA) which is typically about 30% of the radio network cost," Agarwal added.

Earlier, the eight-member committee, headed by DoT member (technology) K Ramchand said that a comprehensive Indian telecom stack needs to be put together with a focus on indigenous manufacturing and national security.

Last year, the government had amended the General Financial Rules 2017, restricting companies from countries sharing a land border with India - such as China, Pakistan and Bangladesh - from securing government contracts, potentially barring Chinese Huawei and ZTE from bidding.

Pushing foreign vendors to back foot, public-owned company has prepared its blueprint to manufacture 4G and 5G eNodeBs and related network elements, as a part of its efforts to consolidate various components so that the country's telecom sector relies on local companies to achieve self-reliance.

Early this month, BSNL invited fresh proposals from suppliers as well as consortiums for planning, testing, deployment and annual maintenance of 57,000 sites for upcoming 4G network across the country on a turnkey basis following the Department of Telecommunications' (DoT) recommendation to include homegrown companies.

The fourth-largest telco that has recently taken over counterpart Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited's (MTNL) Delhi and Mumbai network operations, had to scrap its notice inviting tender, it released on March 23, 2020 after a series of allegations from homegrown companies citing inclusion of restrictive conditions that potentially debar them.

BSNL is set to start trials on the 2100 MHz spectrum band that would be allocated administratively and funded by the Centre through capital infusion at a value of Rs 20,140 crore while the GST amount of Rs 3,674 crore would be borne by the government through budgetary resources.