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Mobile

BSNL Delays Wireless Deals

Indian carrier Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) has been forced to extend the deadline on its enormous, yet much-delayed, wireless equipment tender as vendors struggle to put together bids that meet its stringent requirements.

BSNL is looking to award around $4 billion worth of contracts for GSM and UMTS gear that will provide 45.5 million mobile lines. To take part in the bidding process, vendors have to meet a list of criteria, including having 20 million lines already installed in GSM networks in at least 10 countries, with at least one network serving more than 2 million lines. At least 30 percent of the equipment has to be manufactured in India. (See BSNL: Love Me Tender!)

Eighteen vendors –- including Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), Nortel Networks Ltd. , Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) –- met with BSNL in April to express interest in bidding, and for the past few weeks have been peppering the carrier with questions. BSNL sent back its responses today, leaving the vendors less than a week to meet the May 10 deadline.

Instead, BSNL issued an extension notice yesterday, keeping May 10 as a deadline to respond to queries, and requiring vendors to submit their bids by May 31.

BSNL is in the midst of a major network buildout, and has already awarded 14.5 million GSM lines to state-owned supplier ITI Ltd. and its partner Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA). (See Alcatel Picks Up BSNL Business.) It's also checking out the possibility of deploying fiber-to-the-home kit to expand its broadband network.

It has issued two "expressions of interest" (requests for information) -- one for EPON equipment and another for GPON, for which the deadline was May 1. The documents call for the supply of 3,200 OLT and ONU systems, with a splitting ratio of 1:32. The proposed network would serve 50,000 homes, enabling the carrier to offer advanced services including high-speed Internet access and IPTV.

According to the documents, "the supplier should also send the past supply experience of the FTTH... equipment to major telecom carriers for offering the broadband services. The list of networks and countries where this equipment is deployed may also be intimated."

The shortlisted bidders will be given the tender document laying out BSNL's technical, commercial, and financial conditions, and BSNL is leaving open the option of awarding contracts to more than one vendor.

— Nicole Willing, Reporter, Light Reading

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