Fr, 2.12.2022

Superministry close the most expensive communication service provider

Mikk Salu
, ajakirjanik
Superministry close the most expensive communication service provider
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The building of the Joint Ministry (Super Ministry) in the darkness of the evening.
The building of the Joint Ministry (Super Ministry) in the darkness of the evening. Photo: Madis Veltman
  • The previous service provider was Tele 2.
  • Next year’s service provider will be the three times more costly Telia.
  • Only Telia qualified for the tender; Elisa and Tele 2 were rejected.

The tender for communications services for the superministry for the next four years ended in the middle of September. The winner was Telia. Winning means in this case that Elisa and Tele 2 were disqualified and in the end there was no one to choose from but Telia. The terms of the tender were set up in such a way that out of three telecom operators only Telia could meet them.

Telia's bid was the most expensive, nearly 1.2 million euros. Elisa’s bid was a couple of dozen of thousands cheaper, but Tele 2 offered three times cheaper service than Telia. In recent years and also at present, Tele 2 provides communication services to the Superministry.

The tender's organizer, the State Information and Communication Technology Center (RIT), refuses to comment. They point out that the result of the tender has been disputed and therefore no explanation can be given. Therefore the article is based on publicly available tender documents.

One objection to both Elisa and Tele 2 was that their self-service environment did not meet the requirements of the tender. Of course, Tele 2 and Elisa have self-service, but they apparently lack one or two functions which Telia has. For example, it was mentioned regarding Elisa that they do not have an “Analysis module, which must enable making summaries of users or user groups over different periods and to view and record the corresponding differences in services.” And since there was no such thing, the bidder could be dismissed at the starting line.

Both Tele 2 and Elisa replied that if their self-service did not have certain requested functions, their customer managers could do the work for the superministry. Considering that until now Tele 2 provides communication service to the superministry, it can be assumed that this solution would function.

Another criticism of Tele 2 was that they do not offer VoWifi and Volte service. Specifically, Tele 2 currently offers them only for Apple phones and will enable the service more widely in the first quarter of next year. But at present and in the way the terms of the tender stated, they really cannot provide these services.

Most people probably do not know what VoWifi and Volte are, but in short, VoWifi allows you to make phone calls over a Wi-Fi network. With many apps (e.g. Signal, Skype, etc.) one can make calls over Wi-Fi, but in the case of VoWif we are talking about a classic phone call over Wi-Fi.

A few years ago, when Digigeenius tested the possibilities of VoWif and Volte, they used the Karja Kelder bar as an example. Mobile phone service is usually weak underground, but one can make calls through Wi-Fi, and what is especially convenient, when stepping out and returning to regular network coverage, one need not hang up; the telephone automatically switches from the Wi-Fi network to the regular one. And Volte, or calls over 4G, is the technology which makes VoWifi possible. In addition, through Volte, the connection is established faster and allows one to surf the Internet during a phone call.

These are technologies which belong to the “nice to have” category, but are they actually vitally necessary? If an average ministry official makes 5 minutes of phone calls a day, how often does he find himself in the cellar bar situation where it is imperative to call through Wi-Fi, instead of taking a few steps upstairs to reach regular coverage? Or at least, is it worth three times the cost?

It is possible that the superministry and RIT had very good justification for how they formulated a tender where only one operator qualifies. The state does not necessarily have to buy a cheaper product, but if the price difference is multiple, it would be at least good to know what the reason is. A bill of 800,000 euros extra need not be all that big in the context of the state budget, but this amount could, for example, cover this year's overdraft of the Estonian theaters and museums, which has been caused by the higher electricity prices.

The whole idea of a tender should be to create a competitive situation. There would be different bids with different arguments – one with better self-service, another with lower price, the third one with some other special feature. But this time there was no competition enabling the considering of different features.