BSNL Shares the Wealth

India’s largest GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) carrier Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) looks set to share its $1 billion network expansion deal amongst a number of vendors.

Media reports last month cited Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) as the likely sole beneficiary of the 11-million-line GSM project, but BSNL today suggests that the Canadian vendor will not be the only supplier (see Nortel Named in Big Indian Deal).

“They are likely to be one of the suppliers,” says N. Sundaraman, deputy director general for the carrier’s Cellular Mobile Telephone Service division. “The decision will be taken in the next nine or ten days.”

Industry scuttlebutt cites Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) and Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) as strong favorites, whilst LM Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICY) and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) are also potential victors in light of previous wins with the carrier (see Ericsson Does GSM in India and Moto Wins Indian GSM Deal).

Research firm EMC gives BSNL a subscriber base of 5.8 million as of June 2004. The carrier expects to hit 15 million GSM lines by December 2005.

The network expansion is in keeping with India’s standing as one of the world’s most explosive wireless markets. Lehman Brothers expects the region to reach 50 million subscribers by the end of 2004 and 100 million by August 2006 (see India Curries Wireless Favor).

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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