The demands from vendors coincide with the state-run telco’s tender process for 57,000 4G sites and core network under phase nine. Despite outstanding dues, Nokia, Ericsson and ZTE have expressed their interest to bid for the tender under the newly defined process.
“In spite of several follows-ups and many commitments, the outstanding payment is still pending. This not only creates business challenges for us, but also reflects adversely on India as an investment destination for global investors,” a Nokia spokesperson told ET.
The Finnish gear maker said that it has been committed to powering BSNL and MTNL networks that have kept people connected and have sustained economic activities during this pandemic. “We hope that the government will take affirmative action to expedite payments so that we can continue fulfil our commitment to the industry and the country.”
A ZTE India spokesperson also said that it is becoming tough for the company to run BSNL’s network in the absence of payments from the telco.
“There are many projects running at BSNL and not just the GSM network. We have got the highest pending dues among all vendors. Our HQ has been supporting us for keeping the network operational. While they have not withdrawn support, there are a lot of challenges without money,” the ZTE spokesperson told ET.
BSNL owes Nokia close to Rs 1,000 crore while ZTE is waiting to be paid more than Rs 1,000 crore in just for the capital expenditure for the phase eight. Ericsson is also seeking over Rs 480 crore from BSNL for the phase five GSM expansion.
“…we are awaiting our overdue payments from BSNL,” an Ericsson spokesperson told ET.UTStarcom, which supports BSNL’s 3G, transmission and NGN network, is also seeking to recover over Rs 500 crore in outstanding dues.
“Situation is not good because we haven’t been paid for the last 4-5 months. December was a crucial month and BSNL gave in writing that all dues will be cleared. It is a terrible situation,” UTStarcom India Managing Director Rahul Pandey told ET.
NASDAQ-listed UTStarcom was planning to set up its manufacturing plant and a research and development centre in India after state-run telecom firm BSNL clears its dues. “We don’t know how to run the operations and it has impacted our expansion plans,” Pandey said.
Last payment was made by BSNL in September 2020 when a certain percentage was cleared for all vendors. It also distributed funds to these vendors in December 2020 for operational expenditure (opex), which vendors termed “grossly insufficient”. Vendors said that dues are much higher for combined capex and opex.
In December 2020, Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had asked central public sector undertakings, including the BSNL, to clear payment dues of vendors and contractors.