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June 17, 1997


VSNL to double capacity, reduce call charges

The Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited, the Indian government's overseas telecommunications giant and the sole commercial Internet access provider, has drawn up ambitious expansion plans.

The Indian government has a five-year planning regimen. For the Ninth Five-Year Plan period starting this year, the VSNL plans to upgrade services and double capacities and reduce international calling rates through its tieup with BT-MCI and AT&T.

"The programme is aimed at placing VSNL amongst the league of nations providing the most advanced services in the field of telecom and, as already announced, will involve a capital outlay of over Rs 36 billion.

The VSNL, which has four switches in the country handling outgoing communication with an approximate installed capacity of 16,000 connections, is planning to install four more switches. This will add an additional capacity of 16,000 connections by 2002.

The company is capable of providing '1 per cent grade' of service, an internationally acceptable standard. This means that of every 100 calls made utilising the VSNL connection facility, 99 are able to connect on the first instance.

However, with demand for services growing rapidly, it plans to augment capacity to the tune of 4,000 additional connections every year on an average for the next four years. "This will not only ensure that the quality of our service does not decline, but will also provide a suitable buffer capacity," an official said. "The new switches, costing Rs 50 crore (Rs 500 million), have already been ordered and we are committed to implementing the project," he added.

VSNL Director (Development) R K Gupta has said that the corporation is planning to invest around Rs 1.5 billion during this period in the 'Fibre Optic Link Around the Globe', a privately financed, high-capacity undersea fibre optic cable that will connect Europe and the East Asia through the Indian Ocean.

FLAG will link business centres and high-growth regions between the United Kingdom and Japan. When completed, the FLAG cable will be the longest fibre optic link in the world, spanning a length of 27,000 km. In India, FLAG will have a landing point in Bombay.

The total estimated development cost of the project is around $1.2 billion. FLAG can provide 120,000 64 Kbps circuits which can be increased with available technology to at least 360,000 circuits. "This will be done utilising advanced transmission technology including 5 Gbps SDH fibre optic system. It will be ideally suited for data multimedia and wideband requirements," the official added.

The other two prestigious international projects that will see major VSNL participation are the 'SEA-ME-WE3' submarine cable system and the Inmarsat-P project. The former is the successor to the 'SEA-ME-WE2' project, the wide-band submarine cable digital system that was commissioned in June 1994.

Sixteen international telecommunication administrations have signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly study the possibility of implementing a new submarine cable system. Termed the 'subsea digital lightwave super highway', it will connect France to Singapore via Bombay, Gupta said. "When implemented, the new system will serve as a platform for launching the wideband services," he added.

The other ambitious project up Videsh Sanchar Nigam's sleeve is the Inmarsat-P hand-held satellite telephone system. VSNL will actively participate in the Inmarsat-sponsored project for global personal communication, Gupta promised. An outlay of Rs 3.5 billion has been set aside by the company for the purpose during the Ninth Five Year Plan.

- Compiled from the Indian media

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