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Will VSNL be able to deliver the bandwidth?

Anil Wanvari

AT the inauguration of VSNL's website in Mumbai last week, telecom minister Jagmohan said that there was no need for private companies to set up international internet gateways; VSNL could do the job well enough.

Apparently, VSNL officials have managed to convince the minister that it will be able to deliver on the bandwidth demand from private ISPs. Sure it well might. But it will have to take a look at pricing under a microscope.

As much as Rs 5 lakh per annum for a 64 kbps line is still too steep when a 1.5 mbps line costs just twice that much in the US. Users get bandwidth in several multiples of 64 kbps at a price that's just double of what VSNL is charging.

The Government's lowering of leased line rates was a step in the right direction but it is not enough; the sticker prices have to go down further.

And how will that happen Mr Jagmohan? When there is competition and there is choice. Not when there is a monopoly and a relatively inefficient one at that. There would be no need for alternategateways if VSNL were to behave itself, price its service right and offer it with oodles of quality. But sadly, that is not the case.

Mr Jagmohan let as many private gateways come up as the market can support. Let there be as many providers of leased lines as possible. And how many would those be? The marketplace will be the best judge; it will weed out the the weak and inefficient.

Big money in satellite business

How large is the global commercial satellite industry? Well, according to Skyreport, a newsletter on the broadcasting business, it generated $65.9 billion in revenue in 1998. That was an increase of 15 per cent over adjusted 1997 revenue. The statistics were compiled by the Satellite Industry Association.

The US satellite industry accounted for $30.7 billion of that total. Transponder rentals generated $6.05 billion in revenue, while subscription/retail satellite services totalled $20.1 billion. These two segments made up $26.2 billion in satellite services.

Manufacturing of birdstook up $17.6 billion of the total, with satellite launching firms pocketing $7 billion of the revenues. This was split up amongst launch service providers ($4.3 billion) and subcontractors engaged in vehicle construction ($2.7 billion).

One big contributor to the satellite industry's turnover was the making of satellite-related ground equipment. This covers the entire gamut from satellite control systems to DTH dishes. It pitched in with $15.2 billion in revenues.

Mr Mahajan, Mr Jagmohan, and Mr Vajpayee, there's big money in the satellite business. All you have to do is tap into it. The good point about India is that we have a pipeline to it courtesy the manufacturing and designing capability of ISRO. Now it has to be flogged in a coordinated manner.

Hotmail goes foreign

This one is for those who are hot on Hotmail. It has gone German, French and Japanese. The free e-mail service has attracted nearly 40 million sign-ups. Microsoft, which took over Hotmail some time back, is targeting 27million users in these three non-English-speaking countries.

The localised user interface has the same interface and key features as the English version of Hotmail, but is tailored for linguistic and cultural appropriateness for non-English-speaking regions.

For example, on-line help and support inquires will be answered in the member's local language. Localised services are as easy to use as the English version of Hotmail.

While on the subject of free, another free internet access service in the US is making its mark. NetZero has already been mentioned in this column in the past as the service which has crossed half-a-million subscribers. The new kid on the block is a free internet access service called Freei.net which has managed to gross about 100,000 users in Washington state, making it the second-largest ISP in that area. It survives like NetZero on advertising, very sharply-targeted advertising based on the profile of each user.

The writer is the editor of The Indian Cab&Sat Reporter. Feelfree to email with your comments to television@vsnl.com or television@hotmail.com

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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