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Ericsson set to connect BSNL call

New Delhi, Oct. 9: Swedish telecom firm Ericsson has emerged as the lowest bidder for Bharat Sanchar Nigam’s Rs 20,000-crore GSM line contract that is touted as the biggest telecom equipment deal in the world.

Officials said if Ericsson's bid is selected after the process of evaluation is completed, the Swedish giant will supply 60 per cent of the equipment required for the 4.55-crore GSM line expansion project.

Finnish firm Nokia — which emerged as the second-lowest bidder — will provide for the remaining 40 per cent. The financial bids were opened here today.

Separately, nearly 15 million lines will be supplied by state-run ITI Limited, which has a technical tie-up with French telecom giant Alcatel.

However, both Nokia and ITI will have to match the price of Ericsson, according to the terms of the tender.

“We have emerged the lowest bidder based on the numbers. The evaluation process is on and BSNL’s decision will be final,” said P. Balaji, vice-president (marketing and strategy), Ericsson (India). But he declined to give financial details citing a confidentiality clause in the tender process.

BSNL officials said the entire process of evaluation and finalisation could take up to three weeks before the contracts were awarded.

Besides Ericsson and Nokia, three other global players — Siemens, Motorola and ZTE — were also in the race for the prestigious project.

Motorola and ZTE were not called for the meeting today as they did not qualify the technical evaluation, BSNL sources said.

The bidding war had its share of controversy with Motorola approaching Delhi High Court to challenge its disqualification from the bidding process. However, the court decided not to stay BSNL’s tender process.

Third bidder Siemens, which has recently been merged with Nokia, had submitted a separate bid from Nokia for the tender.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has sought clarifications from the department of telecom (DoT) regarding the alleged lack of transparency in BSNL’s tender.

“The specifications of the above tender have been repeatedly changed to protect the interest of some foreign firms,” said a letter from the PMO to DoT.

One of the reasons for seeking a clarification is that Alcatel would get 40 to 45 per cent of the 15-million-line contract which is going to ITI without even formally participating in the tender process, primarily due to its tie-up with ITI.

BSNL will be implementing the project in phases spread over the next three years. About 25 per cent of the additional lines will be for third generation (3G) GSM lines, while the remaining would continue to be for 2.5G telephony.

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