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|November 27, 1998||
After banning subscribers from using dirt-cheap Web phone technologies, the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited is itself all set to deploy it.
Don't tell us we didn't warn you.
On February 4, Rediff had front-paged a report titled 'The forked tongue'. It had revealed that how days after threatening subscribers against Net telephony, the monolith was planning the service for itself.
He had insisted "Yes we are carrying out pilot studies for this. We are on just grounds in getting into Web telephony as we are using Internet telephony as a technology for providing consumers with better services at a lower cost. We have the mandate to provide telephony."
When pointed out that the government was against voice over Web in any situation, Syngal had explained "This must not be confused with the use of the Internet PC for telephony, which is not being allowed. The ISP policy of restricting the use of voice telephony on the Internet service is quite reasonable and does not in anyway contradict our policy of achieving bandwidth efficiency for providing better service.
"Have we not moved from the analogue to the digital in television? It is merely adoption of a technology. There is no case for objecting to VSNL plans. Right now we are only experimenting."
But that "experimenting" has finally led to a full-fledged Web telephony service now. Rediff had estimated five months. Well, it took nine.
VSNL has already installed an Internet exchange and will begin the initial round of testing some time next week. It is learnt that the technology has been sourced from a company in Israel.
Amitabh Kumar, VSNL's acting chairman and managing director, has been quoted as saying "We have installed an Internet exchange and we will begin testing it next week."
Earlier, the government had banned Internet telephony because it resulted in revenue loss for VSNL. The Department of Telecommunications has now slashed international telephony rates to US but these are expected to fall further once Internet telephony becomes a reality.
"The charges will now definitely be lower," promised Kumar.
However, it is still some time before the service winds its way to desktops. Though the government, in principle, has allowed VSNL to test the technology, it is still not clear as to who will deliver the service.
Moreover, there are contentious issues like revenue sharing that are still to be worked out.
That is because VSNL is India's only official international gateway and all revenues accrue to it.
The other reason for delay could be due to the fact that telecom networks in India use 'digital circuit multiplier' equipment. This involves a combination of cable and satellites.
For Internet telephony, cable bandwidth is of paramount importance and that is where India lacks. Companies in the US offering Internet telephony have a minimum bandwidth of 2 GBPS, compared to VSNL's current total bandwidth of 80 MBPS.
VSNL has plans to increase this capacity to 300 MBPS soon. But that's that.
Also, Internet telephony has not really caught up in the US and Europe.
Realising the threat posed by the Web, terrestrial companies like Sprint, in US, have slashed rates to 10 cents a minute for international calls made to select destinations and done away with additional levies.
VSNL is also working on other low-cost telecom technologies such as the DAMA and low-cost CDMA based on the Intelsat satellite system.
VSNL is also working on developing a native Internet protocol exchange that will do away with the need to have independent terrestrial and Internet-based telephony.
As of now, only two companies, Qwest and Level 3 Communications, have deployed this technology.
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