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September 22, 1997


Email providers keen on becoming ISPs

Leading infotech companies and existing electronic mail service providers have evinced keen interest in providing Internet services.

It is understood that infotech and telecom companies such as IBM, Wipro, Satyam Infoway and Global Telesystems are keen on becoming Internet service providers. Besides, email service providers such as Sprint RPG and Business India Access are also keen on providing Internet services. In fact, the various email service-providers, for a long time, have been asking the Department of Telecommunications to give them a go-ahead to provide Internet services as they are already paying a hefty licence fee for providing email services.

The annual licence fee for email services is about Rs 2.5 million. According to sources, these companies are currently waiting for a clear policy from the DoT so that they can bid for a licence.

The Union cabinet recently approved the entry of private companies in the Internet services business.

Industry analysts say many of the companies which have shown interest in becoming Internet service providers already have a large network spread across the country. "If we were to start Internet services, we can effectively use our existing infrastructure," said a Wipro source.

At the time of clearing the way for the entry of the private sector in providing Internet services, the cabinet had said that apart from providing Internet services, DoT will also be responsible for creating a national backbone, which will help in easy interconnectivity among the different private Internet service providers.

DoT, about a couple of months ago, had proposed that there be no cap on the number of private Internet service providers in the country. At the same time, it had also suggested that there be no licence fees for the first two years after which the licence fee will be decided in consultations with the private providers.

While forwarding its proposals to cabinet for approval, DoT said that private providers would have to lease international data lines from the Videsh Sanchar Nigam.

In the meantime, the state-owned Mahanagar Telephone Nigam is also planning to become an Internet service provider. According to sources, it plans to provide Internet services, and a decision is expected shortly.

"We are also in the market, and want to compete for providing Internet services," said an MTNL source. The cabinet has paved the way for DoT to provide Internet services. However, according to sources, MTNL will also be under pressure to give private providers telephone lines on a priority basis. These lines are necessary for private providers so that their subscribers can dial into the network to access the Internet.

MTNL has already provided VSNL about 1,000 telephone lines in Bombay alone, so that VSNL's subscribers are able to dial into its network to access the Internet.

- Compiled from the Indian media

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