RailTel mobile tender hangs fire as bidders claim Jio violated condition
The Indian Railways tender to get itself 3.78 lakh mobile phone connections has run into rough weather with a couple of bidders claiming that the lowest bidder Reliance Jio has violated a tender condition. The tender floated by RailTel, the telecom arm of Railways, was opened on October 18, but yet to be awarded. The other bidders are Airtel, Vodafone-Idea and state-owned BSNL.
The contentious clause, a new introduction in the tender process this time, stipulates that “the rates across different plans will not vary more than 50 per cent of minimum data rates quoted in any of the plan.” Sources said some bidders have alleged that the condition restricted their pricing offer while the same did not seem to have been applied on Jio—an allegation the company has denied.
Railways had sought four plans from telecom companies to be distributed among its staff and officers across India. The senior-most strata among the users (2 per cent of the total users) are to get a plan of 60 gigabytes (GB) of data per month. The next lot of 26 per cent users would get a 45 GB plan, while the largest chunk, 72 per cent users, would get a 30 GB data pack. Calls are to be free in all plans. A fourth plan, meant only for 7,200 users is for operational purposes using SMSes only.
Airtel submitted the second lowest financial bid of Rs 3.37 crore per month excluding taxes, whereas Jio’s offer was for Rs 2.92 crore per month. Sources in RailTel said that Airtel has highlighted the fact that Jio’s top plan for 60 GB data, which is offered for Rs 125, is 86 per cent costlier than its 30 GB plan offered at Rs 67 per month. When contacted, Bharti Airtel declined to comment.
A RailTel spokesperson did not explain the meaning and the rationale behind the clause or why capping the difference between data rates across plans was of any consequence to Railways as a client. An email query sent to the PSU remained unanswered.
Industry sources said the two companies are interpreting the language of the clause differently. While Jio is viewing the expression of “minimum data rates” as the rate per GB, for Airtel minimum data rate means the lowest rate offered for total data in the plan. Airtel has offered 60 GB data plan for Ra 124, a rupee less than Jio, while its 30 GB plan is offered at Rs 83, Rs 16 more than Jio’s.
“We confirm that we are fully compliant with the tender conditions. Our minimum data rates, offered as part of the bid, do not vary beyond the prescribed limits. Any allegations to the contrary are nothing but falsity. Our bid is not just fully compliant but also lowest. Thus if selected, it will bring huge savings to the Railways and also provide the users with an enhanced, world-class 4G experience,” a Jio spokesperson told The Indian Express.
BSNL and Vodafone-Idea did not respond to email queries.