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January 15, 1999


Day Two at ISP India is tech mumbo jumbo

Priya Ganapati in Bombay

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The second day of the ISP India 99 conference on Thursday began with the opening of the technical track.

National Centre of Software Technology Director S Ramani delivered the keynote address.

He lamented the lack of Indian content on the Web. "Today India accounts for less than 2 per cent of the traffic on the Internet. Indian traffic on the Internet is mostly towards sites in the US as a result of which we end up paying more money to international telecom companies."

Ramani proposed the concept of a 'teleport' to facilitate better growth of telecom companies. "Our common goal should be to work towards a teleport. It would be a building with excellent communication facilities. The best thing would be to have one or two tall towers in Bombay with all telecom facilities available there. Telecom companies can rent office space there and not have to bother about getting proper communication infrastructure," he explained.

In a lighter vein, alluding to the 16-storey high-rise of VSNL in downtown Bombay, Ramani said, "VSNL (Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited) can use this idea to get into the real estate business. After all they have quite a good experience in building tall towers with good telecom facilities."

Ramani also urged the government to extend all cooperation to ensure the growth of the Internet in India. "The fairly bureaucratic way in which Indian society functions may make the growth of the Internet impossible. The nation has some responsibility to make sure that the industry succeeds," he said.

In a highly technical presentation that had most of the audience struggling to grasp with numbers D K Nimal, chief general manager (marketing), VSNL, dealt with challenges that broadband would pose to ISPs.

Nimal traced the rapid growth of the Internet across the world. "The radio took 38 years to come to critical mass of 50 million users across the world. Television took 13 years to do the same while cable was definitely faster and took 10 years to reach 50 million users. But the Internet has taken only 5 years to reach the same figure. The Internet has created an explosion and the number of users have been growing exponentially," he explained.

Nimal revealed some of the challenges that ISPs would have to face. These would include high customer expectations, higher access speeds and requirements of greater bandwidth.

"Unless you have bandwidth you cannot cope with higher speed. Also you need to give multimedia access," he warned the assembled delegates.

"The key drivers to access the technological evolution would be demand for greater bandwidth, support for various user services and support for network based applications," Nimal added.

The access technologies to do this would be: copper wires that have been the traditional media, fibre or coaxial cables that are more recent technologies to deliver data at high speeds and wireless that is divided into satellite or terrestrial access.

Nimal revealed that VSNL plans to enlarge its 120 MB existing bandwidth by around 45 MB in two to three months.

The third session of the day by R Ramamoorthy, country business manager (telecom), HP India, came as a huge relief to an audience confused by the highly technical nature of Nimal's presentation.

Ramamoorthy predicted that by 2005 IP based data traffic would reach 99 per cent. He explained that while the cost of installation of a common public switching network would be around $10 million, that of a packet switching network would be just $10,000 to $20,000.

"ISPs can position themselves in the marketplace as simple access providers, premium access providers or providers of specialised solutions for corporations. The market trend is that ISPs have to focus on moving towards value added services like Web hosting and email hosting. After all, value added services are where the money and the margin is," he proclaimed.

Ramamoorthy also advocated the division of ISPs into different categories of services quite like the airline business.

He emphasised that ISPs would have to integrate new technologies with the existing ones. "Because new technologies have made many ideas possible we cannot throw away the existing networks as thousands of rupees have been sunk into it. We have to converge the old with the new and provide optimised services," he explained.

On the opportunities for ISPs using broadband technology, Shriram Adukoorie, business development manager, Microsoft, agreed with Ramamoorthy that costs would have to be kept minimal and automation is the only solution.

He repeated that ISPs would have to add value-added services in order to retain customers.

In a live demo on the opportunities that broadband can present Adukoorie declared that not just access would be the killer application for broadband but the various other services in terms of content were necessary.


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