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Mobile

NSN Probes BSNL Bid Process

NOON -- Nokia Networks isn't giving up in its efforts to secure part of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) 's $6 billion mobile network tender, according to a a report from The Economic Times.

The report says NSN has approached India's Central Vigilance Committee and the country's Competition Commission in an attempt to find out if (and why) its bids in each of the four geographic regions specified in BSNL's tender documents were, as previously reported, rejected on technical grounds along with bids from Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763). (See $6B Wireless Winners.)

NSN is sticking to its public statement that it has heard nothing from BSNL on this matter, but it's clearly unhappy with a process that has left BSNL with a seemingly very limited shortlist of two vendors -- Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.

The situation raises two key questions. First, what are these "technical grounds" that have scuppered NSN and others? And secondly, and perhaps even more pertinently, why didn't BSNL ensure its technical requirements were met by discussing any shortcomings with the vendors?

It is usual for tender processes to include ongoing communications as vendors ask operators for clarification on particular clauses. In many cases operators inform vendors during the process if their submissions are not meeting the technical requirements.

In this instance, it's not as if BSNL had a multitude of bidders and was forced to play hardball to create a manageable shortlist. Now it looks as if BSNL might have only one qualified bidder in each of the four regions, rendering the opening of sealed bids pointless.

The one region where there might have been two bidders is also under scrutiny, as Huawei is reported to have been ruled out on security grounds -- a charge Huawei's spokesman claims is "manifestations of corporate warfare." (See Huawei Touts $2B Deal From BSNL ).

— Catherine Haslam, Asia Editor, Light Reading

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