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VSNL Plans Asian Hub And Web Farms

Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL), India's largest ISP and state telecom, aims to make India the global hub for Internet and telecom traffic into Asia and the Far East.

It also plans a massive 'Web farm' project to host Indian Internet sites.

"We see India occupying the same position as the US and some European countries, which act as hubs for the global traffic. We are trying to bring the same to India too," said Amitabh Kumar, VSNL's acting chairman and managing director.

VSNL is looking at tie-ups with other telecom majors to form the much-needed network. Recently it partnered with Singapore telecom to launch a new initiative on managed international private leased lines. Earlier in the year, VSNL announced a similar partnership with British Telecom for frame relay services. A possible tie-up with Japanese Telecom is also in the offing.

In fact, VSNL has recently been on a bandwidth shopping spree. With private ISPs hitching on to VSNL for international connectivity, VSNL has found it difficult to cope with the demand. There are more than 30 ISPs who have taken connectivity from VSNL and another 20 have indicated interest in accessing connectivity over the next month, says company sources.

VSNL is in the process to buy a whopping 155 mbps of bandwidth on the SAFE cable, which originates in Malaysia and terminates in the U.S. A few weeks ago, VSNL purchased 45 mbps of capacity on the FLAG cable.

Including the FLAG capacity, VSNL has a total bandwidth of 165 mbps, and with the SAFE deal it would be nearly doubled to 320 mbps. VSNL sources estimate a total requirement of Internet bandwidth to the tune of 530 mbps by the end of this fiscal year.

According to sources, VSNL has already signed for purchase of 155 mbps from Japan on the Japanese-U.S. line. However, it has yet to extend this to India and will be undertaken once VSNL gets the requirement from ISPs, said sources.

Meanwhile, sources said that the proposed Web farms, starting in Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore, will be grouped with 100 to 120 servers and will be leased out to customers to make Web site hosting easier.

"The proposal is before the board of VSNL and when passed, it will bring down costs dramatically for customers to about one-tenth of the current rates," said Kumar. In addition to the Web farm, VSNL is encouraging sharing of bandwidth among corporate users in the country.

"This will bring down costs for the users and provide them the required bandwidth," Kumar said. "We are also considering giving educational institutions in the country further discounts on the shared lines."

At present most of the Internet sites are in the U.S. and there has been a heavy flow of traffic from India towards that country. With Web hosting taking place on a larger scale in India, the cost of international bandwidth will come down leading to a substantial reduction in Internet traffic.

"Today, most of the traffic is one way as most of the sites are in the US. This has led to us paying the entire call free, from generating point to the terminating point, although the international norm is to share the cost," says Kumar.

And if India has a substantial number of sites and at least 40,000 to 50,000 servers here with rich and very popular content, the imbalance in the traffic flow will be reduced.

"This will lead to higher value for our backbone and less outflow of money," explained Kumar.



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