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April 21, 1998


DoT snatches away Ernakulam Net access from VSNL

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A recent newspaper advertisement by Ernakulam Telecommunications declared that it would be taking over the local Internet access services of VSNL.

Ernakulam Telecommunications is subordinate to the Department of Telecommunications.

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The Web server that caters for the Ernakulam region resides in Madras and the advertisement took the VSNL officers there by surprise.

There is speculation now that this could well be the first instance of DoT taking over an Internet service operation from VSNL.

The advertisement assures that the tariff for the shell and TCP/IP accounts will not change and the application forms for subscription to the service can be obtained from the customer service centres concerned.

VSNL sources have been quoted as saying that they had not been informed of a change of guards. They wondered if the advertisement only implied that the router that is currently residing with VSNL (Ernakulam) would now be taken over by DoT.

They felt that the notification might have come from within the DoT directorate itself. This could have led to a situation where intimating the VSNL was not seen as necessary.

When asked if this was proper procedure, sources said it was the reality of the undercurrents between the institutions and that either the headquarters or VSNL Madras should have been intimated.

A senior DoT officer in Kerala is reported to have said that the taking over happened after they notified the VSNL headquarters.

Also, the officer said that gradually the server also may be shifted from Madras or a new server may be installed in Ernakulam.

He further said that the DoT would take over the operations in Thiruvananthapuram too, where currently VSNL is providing the service.

This will help provide Internet service independent of VSNL, where the latter's role will only be to provide the gateway access.

The whole issue assumes significance because a gateway was set up in Ernakulam some time ago at an initial cost of Rs 210 million. It is now slated to be the principal traffic carrier for Kerala.

Sources say more investment would be required to upgrade the gateway for both, Internet access and telephone/telex/high-speed data exchange.

Another issue brewing trouble between the communications cousins is revenue sharing. VSNL officers say it is not a very rigid ratio. "There are different arrangements and revenue sharing depends on who contributes to what extent,'' they explained.

The sources said that in cities like Pondicherry, Kottayam, Kollam and Coimbatore, DoT has been operating as the front-end (operations and maintenance) for providing Internet service, while VSNL plays the administrative role because the server or router/nodes resided with them.

These are the places where VSNL does not have an office and hence DoT has been operating from the beginning.

In Ernakulam, VSNL has an office and currently has a router there. In cities such as Hyderabad, DoT runs the whole show as the server too resides with DoT. Here VSNL's role is to provide the gateway access for international connectivity.

"These arrangements depend on who has better infrastructure,'' the sources said.

- Compiled from the Indian media


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