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STATE-OWNED BSNL has got bids from five companies—Adishwar India, Ampoules, Teracom Limited, E-mall Infotech and Tech solutions Ltd—to
set up and run its WiMAX business in 16 circles on a revenue share franchisee basis.

BSNL had cancelled the earlier tender in June 2009 after its investigations revealed that five of the six shortlisted companies were acting as ‘fronts’ for certain individuals. As first reported by ET, BSNL had then sought fresh bids or franchisees across the country to roll out the WiMAX platform, the technology that allows users the wireless access to high-speed internet and other data applications over a large area. BSNL expects WiMAX to generate multi-billion dollar revenues over the next 10 years.

A BSNL executive confirmed that bids or expression of interest (EoI) for launching WiMAX services were received on Thursday from five companies. The 16 circles are Haryana, Uttar Pradesh East, Uttar Pradesh West, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, North East, Kolkata, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, J&K, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu. Chennai and West Bengal. “The project will be on a revenue sharing basis and successful bidders must also do the marketing and provide after sale support,” the BSNL executive said.

BSNL will now analyse the bids and see if the companies meet all the parameters. Companies offering the highest revenue to BSNL will be awarded the contract, he added. The tender conditions specify that only companies with a turnover of over Rs 100 crore for two consecutive years would be allowed to bid.

The WiMAX project was slated to be underway earlier this year, but was delayed as a string of ‘shell’ companies that existed only on paper had made it to BSNL shortlist. The telco subsequently cancelled the tender after its own investigations revealed that five of the six shortlisted companies—WiExpert Communications, SV Telecom Systems, Digitelco Communications, Spectrus Communications and Technotial Infoways—were acting as ‘fronts’ as they shared the same corporate details, notaries, auditors and dates of incorporation, and even their last annual general body meeting was shown to be held on the same day.

BSNL also came under pressure from its labour unions to scrap the earlier tender following reports of widescale corruption in the methodologies adopted to shortlist successful bidders. In the last election campaign, opposition BJP had alleged that five of the six shortlisted companies were promoted by telecom minister A Raja’s confidant Sanjay Kapoor and had sought a CBI probe into the issue.

BSNL already has a tie-up with US-headquartered Soma Networks, which runs WiMax services for the PSU in the circles of Gujarat, Maharashtra, including Goa, and Andhra Pradesh.

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