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Bharat Sanchar Executive: Have Given Telecom Equipment Contracts to ZTE, Alcatel-Lucent

By R. Jai Krishna NEW DELHI--State-run Indian telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. has given network-equipment contracts to China's ZTE Corp. (ZTCOY) and Anglo-French firm Alcatel-Lucent (ALU), a top company executive said Tuesday. "The purchase orders have already been handed out," R.K. Agarwal, director for consumer mobile-phone services at BSNL, told Dow Jones Newswires. BSNL has been looking to expand its mobile-phone network for the past two years in an attempt to catch up with rivals like Bharti Airtel Ltd. and Vodafone India Ltd. It has often cited network capacity constraints for its inability to turn profitable. BSNL had invited bids in July 2011 for equipment that will allow it to add 14.37 million mobile-phone connections. It had estimated the contract value to be about 60 billion rupees ($1.09 billion). While ZTE was the lowest bidder, Alcatel-Lucent was among four vendors shortlisted by BSNL. However, Alcatel-Lucent and three others -- Huawei Technologies Co., L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co. [ERIC] and Nokia Siemens Networks -- said they would pull out of the contract as the bid put in by ZTE wasn't viable for them to match. Mr. Agarwal Tuesday said that ZTE and Alcatel-Lucent were offering the same rates. ZTE confirmed receipt of the order. In a statement, ZTE said the contract it got will help BSNL expand its mobile phone network capacity to add 10.15 million new users in the northern and southern parts of India. Executives at the Indian unit Alcatel-Lucent were unavailable for comment. Write to R. Jai Krishna at krishna.jai@dowjones.com

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