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|February 18, 1998||
VSNL can make hay
Delay in private operations equals big bucks for the monopoly.The Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited, the state owned monopoly international telecom carrier, will be the immediate beneficiary of the TRAI order declaring the government's Internet policy 'invalid' and the consequent withdrawal of the Internet service provider licence agreements of the Department of Telecommunications.
The TRAI order could delay the entry of private ISPs by as much as a year as litigation between DoT and TRAI gets underway.
VSNL has projected a 300 per cent jump by March 1999 in the number of subscribers to its Internet service from the current 70,000.
With the TRAI order freezing any attempts to induct competition, VSNL and DoT stand to absorb this and any additional increase in demand for Internet services.
Commenting on the TRAI order, VSNL Chairman and Managing Director B K Syngal said "We are marching ahead and expect to end 1998-99 with 200,000 subscribers. We are going to install routers in MTNL in exchanges in Bombay and Delhi which will reduce outages."
At present, routers - equipment which routes Internet traffic to various data backbones and Net access points - are installed at VSNL earth station premises.
The telecom carrier offers Internet services in six cities: Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Bangalore and Ahmedabad.
In his path-breaking ruling yesterday, Sodhi said "...the Internet policy formulated and announced by the government without obtaining TRAI's recommendation regarding terms and conditions of licences to such service providers... cannot be held to be valid".
Data network and electronic mail providers - among potential ISPs - have reacted differently to the TRAI order.
ISPs promoted by foreign telecom carriers said the move was a positive one, forcing a "rethink on the government stand on key issues."
These ISPs have accused DoT of deviating from the policy cleared by the cabinet late last year. They aver that without the choice of international connectivity (which is under VSNL monopoly), they will be only "retailers of VSNL's service" and there will be no control on quality.
Typically low-cap companies, these ISPs have been happy routing their traffic through VSNL and furnishing relatively low financial bank guarantees to DoT.
- Compiled from the Indian media
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