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BSNL Wants GEPON, WiMax Gear

Ray Le Maistre

Indian national operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) is planning to expand its broadband access services with the deployment of GEPON and a further rollout of WiMax equipment in the near future.

The fixed and mobile carrier has just published an initial GEPON (Gigabit Ethernet Passive Optical Network) equipment tender document that invites vendors to submit their bids by November 23.

The carrier says the full tender document with all the details of BSNL's requirements will be available from October 26, though it has already noted that it wants bidders to have prior success in delivering at least 25 percent of a previous GEPON deployment with another carrier. BSNL had not responded to requests for further information as this article was published.

EPON (Ethernet PON) technology has proved popular in Asia/Pacific markets, where carriers such as KT Corp. in Korea and NTT Communications Corp. (NYSE: NTT) in Japan are building out extensive FTTH (fiber-to-the-home) networks, while GPON (Gigabit PON) is proving more popular in Europe and North America. (See Korea Goes Big on FTTH, PMC-Sierra Hits Milestone, Chunghwa Selects Teknovus, and PON Gear Nears $1B.)

However, Parisian municipal authority Sipperec has chosen EPON for its FTTH rollout in the French capital city, and there are signs of interest in the U.S. as well. (See Parisians Plan EPON Network and Orlando Picks Wave7.)

While BSNL is only accepting submissions from companies registered in India, the number of possible technology partners for an EPON bid is limited, as our new Who Makes What: Ethernet/IP Equipment 2007 report shows.

Of the six vendors listed in that report as EPON system vendors, UTStarcom Inc. (Nasdaq: UTSI) looks well placed as it is already working with BSNL on the carrier's DSL access network, with partner IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), and is supplying equipment for the operator's optical backbone. (See UTStarcom Wins BSNL Deal, UTStarcom Picks IBM, and UTStar Deploys ADSL2+.)

As potential bidders examine that fixed broadband request for proposal (RFP), BSNL looks set to issue a wireless broadband access tender document in the coming weeks. According to a report from Reuters, BSNL chairman Kuldeep Goyal said the carrier is due to announce a procurement plan for WiMax gear that can support 2 million connections.

Any RFP for such a plan would attract the attention of numerous vendors, including Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Aperto Networks Inc. , Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Nokia Networks , Nortel Networks Ltd. , and Indian vendor Telsima Corp. , which is supplying WiMax gear to two other major Indian carriers, Reliance Communications Ltd. (RCom) and Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (VSNL) (NYSE: VSL).

(See WiMax Startup Telsima Pockets $50M, AlcaLu Completes WiMax Trial, Aperto Expands in India, Redline Supports Asia WiMax, and the "Base Stations & Controllers" section of Who Makes What: Wireless Infrastructure .)

BSNL has already deployed some WiMax gear from Aperto to provide wireless broadband for business customers. (See BSNL Deploys Aperto.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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