European vendors face off in monster GSM deal

European equipment vendors Ericsson, Nokia and Siemens are understood to be the final three players in the running for what is thought to be the world’s biggest ever GSM network tender.

Indian operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) announced the monster tender, estimated to be worth between $4bn and $5bn (£2bn to £2.7bn), earlier this year and has subsequently whittled the number of prospective suppliers down to three.

Motorola and ZTE are believed to have been eliminated in the previous round of bidding for failing to meet technical criteria. Some reports suggest BSNL had security concerns over ZTE and Motorola’s Chinese links. Motorola has an equipment manufacturing partnership with ZTE’s rival Huawei.

The tender is reported to be for a total of 60 million new GSM and 3G lines in one of the world’s fastest growing mobile markets. According to Informa Telecoms & Media’s World Cellular Information Service, the country added over 4 million mobile subscribers in September to bring the total to 119 million subscribers.

GSM is the leading technology with almost 90 million users, compared to the 30 million CDMA subscribers.

BSNL itself has over 23 million subscribers, making it the second largest operator behind Bharti Airtel with 25 million.

An Ericsson spokeswoman told that BSNL is expected to announce the winner of the tender within the next two to three weeks. “But Ericsson is never confident until we have the contract,” she said, indicating the cut throat nature of equipment deals.

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