RealTime IT News

Bharti BT's Aims At 70,000 Subscribers In 1999

Bharti BT Internet Ltd (BBIL), a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises and British Telecom, is aiming for a customer base of 70,000 by the end of the year, according to BBIL chief executive officer N. Arjun.

With a range of innovative packages, Bharti BT launched its Internet dial-up access service as an ISP in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore last month. Branded as Mantra Online, BBIL is the largest ISP operator in India after VSNL, MTNL and Satyam, company officials claim.

Very soon, Bharti BT will expand its ISP operations in other parts of the country.

"BT has experience and an established track record in international telecommunication services and Bharti has local expertise in the Indian telecom market, thus making the joint venture an explosive combination," a company representative commented.

Mantra Online has various access plans for subscribers and provides 2 MB of server space per e-mail ID. Through its online interface, the ISP will offer chat-rooms and other content from the well-established British Telecom portal.

BBIL is planning e-commerce, Virtual Private Networking (VPN) and managed data-network options. Mantra Online is also available to corporate and individual users on both PSTN (public switched telephone network) and ISDN modes.

The company has invested US$12.5 million (about Rs 50 crores) in establishing support infrastructure in the three cities. The server will be extended to other major cities in the next one year's time, says Arjun.

Mantra Online has planned two gateways each in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore to route IP traffic to VSNL's international gateways and is planning its own international gateway. These gateways will be interconnected to optimize the flow of network traffic and also to provide for redundancies within the network architecture.

With Mantra Online Internet Starter Kit, new users can instantly log on. Initially available in 100 retail outlets, the kits will soon be available off-the-shelf at over 500 locations in Delhi alone. The company is targeting 70,000 subscribers in the first year, which is expected to increase to 300,000 by the third year.

Incidentally, its competitor and the first private national ISP in India, Satyam Online, has recently bagged 70,000 new subscribers from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) for its Virtual Campus Initiative (VCI). Using the service, the computing students of IGNOU will be able to access information from the Web as well as get course-ware, interact with the facility, peer groups and external experts.