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BSNL’s mega GSM project hits security hurdle
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New Delhi, March 16 Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd’s mega project for setting up a 93-million line GSM-based network has hit a bump with the Home Ministry raising concerns about lack of adequate monitoring provisions for the security agencies to snoop around.

All telecom operators in the country are required to set up a network that allows the security agencies to snoop.

Government sources said that security concerns have also been raised against the background of some of the vendors who have bid for supplying the equipment worth $10 billion. While the name of the vendor in question is not known, sources said that it could be one of the manufacturers from China.

The Home Secretary had called for a meeting with the Chairman of BSNL to discuss these issues last week.

BSNL had divided its 93 million line expansion contract into four parts. Part 1 includes setting up network for GSM based 2G mobile services.

The second part involves rolling out third generation (3G) network.

The third segment will be awarded to companies which can set up the passive infrastructure including towers, power generation rooms and other basic equipment required for a cell site. The fourth part is related to software and billing solution. The bids are being evaluated at the zonal level instead of the earlier practice wherein the BSNL headquarters decided on these projects.

Second time

This is the second time that the security agencies have raised concerns about the equipment being bought by BSNL. Earlier it had objected to BSNL launching 3G services without getting clearances from the Intelligence Bureau. The IB had said that it could not monitor video calls on the PSUs 3G network and, therefore, had asked the telecom company to stop the service.

Some of the bidders have also expressed their unhappiness over the number of relatively unknown companies being allowed to bid for the various parts of the project. “Some of the bids being evaluated do not have the necessary experience required to handle such a major project. They should have been rejected at the initial stage itself,” said one of the bidders.

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