Pvt sector to develop Rs 10,000-cr army communications network

Discussion in 'Strategic Forces' started by EagleOne, Oct 6, 2010.

  1. EagleOne

    EagleOne Regular Member

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    In a giant first step towards bringing India’s reputed Information Technology (IT) industry into defence production, the Indian Army has approached six private sector IT majors to develop a high-tech communications backbone network for it.
    The army’s communications chief, Lt Gen P Mohapatra, revealed today that the army had sent out security-classified “Expressions of Interest”, or EoI, for developing a Tactical Communications System (TCS), which will provide a robust, snoop-proof, mobile, cellular network for the Indian Army’s voice and data communications during battle.
    The EoI, which Business Standard has reviewed, has gone out to at least five private companies: Tata Power (Strategic Electronics Division); HCL Infosystems; Wipro Technologies; Rolta India; and L&T. Another potential candidate, Tech Mahindra, was ruled out as it did not qualify as an Indian company because of a foreign holding component higher than 26 per cent.
    In addition, three public sector undertakings — Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL); Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL); and ITI Ltd — have also received the EoI.
    In the 16 months since the TCS project was sanctioned by the apex Defence Acquisition Council on May 18, 2009, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has tried to hand over the project without bidding to defence PSU, Bharat Electronics Ltd. As Business Standard reported (March 3, 2010: MoD sidelines pvt sector in crucial defence project), the MoD cited “communications secrecy” as the logic for handing over the project on a plate to BEL. After protracted internal debate, MoD decided to allow the Indian private sector to participate, with the Defence Research and Development Organisation developing the secret algorithms required for encoding communications.
    Recipients of the EoI say the TCS development and production will cost up to Rs 10,000 crore. But the TCS is only a foot in the door for the private sector. CII Director-General Chandrajit Banerjee estimated today that there were about Rs 30,000-40,000 crore worth of defence electronics systems in the pipeline.
    Recipients of the EoI must respond within two months (it was issued on September 24) giving out details of the consortia they create for the TCS project; their technology development plans; development milestones; and time schedules. They must also spell out their estimated capital expenditure for designing and developing a prototype system. Based upon this, MoD will select two companies, which will each build a prototype of the TCS. The better of the two will manufacture the seven TCS systems that the Indian Army needs.
    The EoI places the TCS project in the “Make” category of the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2008 (DPP-2008). Under this, the MoD will fund 80 per cent of the development costs, while the selected company (termed the Development Agency, or DA) will fund the remaining 20 per cent. The “Make” procedure mandates that at least 30 per cent of the system must be indigenously developed. However, one of the companies that have received the EoI confidently claims that it will develop at least 70-80 per cent of the system in India.
    In a bold departure from its earlier practice of selecting the lowest bidder, MoD has indicated that indigenisation and technological quality of the product would be considered in choosing a Development Agency. The EoI states: “The contribution of the Indian industry in acquiring and developing Technologies in critical areas shall be a key criterion in assessment of various proposals (sic).”
    Intriguingly, MoD has issued EoIs in the TCS project only to companies that fulfilled the criteria developed for nominating Raksha Udyog Ratnas, a concept that MoD went on to reject. These criteria, which are mentioned in the EoI, include registration at least 10 years ago as a public limited company; FDI holding of under 26 per cent; annual turnover of at least Rs 1000 crore; a minimum credit rating of CRISIL/ICRA-‘A’; and a positive net worth and profitable operations in at least 3 of the last 5 years.
    The TCS project is India’s second project under the “Make” procedure, after the Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) development project (Business Standard, August 9, 2010, Indian industry at landmark defence tender). But MoD sources, pointing out the significance of the TCS, say: “The FICV is just a standalone armoured vehicle. In contrast, the TCS is a network-centric backbone that connects crucial systems in the electronic battlefield; it connects the sensors, the shooters, the decision systems and the command hierarchy. It is the backbone for everything.”

    Pvt sector to develop Rs 10,000-cr army communications network
     
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  3. sesha_maruthi27

    sesha_maruthi27 Senior Member Senior Member

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    Nice to see the MoD allowing the private sector to participate in the development of the defence communications project.
     
  4. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    There are serious implications for security though.

    Honestly, for a project like this, I'd rather have the government get their bearings right and take it up through a PSU.

    The pvt. sector will provide optimality and robustness, as well as maintenance of the physical quality of the network. But outsourcing to the corporate sector always expands the net of potential pitfalls.

    If we are going to go the private way, I'd rather have members of the Army Signals Corps supervise directly. As well as have some of its members embedded secretly within the construction teams.

    A good first step seems to be that the EOI has indicated "indigenisation and technological quality" will be the primary considerations. But I retain serious reservations, and hope that all technicians, software engineers, etc. are thoroughly and laborers randomly vetted.

    There are also implications for this and integration with the Army High Capacity Tactical Communications Network (HCTCN) which, let's not forget, TATA-EADS is bidding for and is very likely to secure.
     
  5. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    ^^^ Time to setup Communication Equipment manufacturer & Networking PSU?
    Why this idea has been ignored from very long time?
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2010

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