IT Giants Launch Infrastructure Products For Indian ISPs
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At an ISP Summit held in New Delhi, technology giants Microsoft, Compaq, Intel, Cisco and Loral Orion unveiled their suite of offerings for Indian Internet providers.
Through this joint initiative--dubbed "Team Internet"--the five are positioning themselves as a single-point source for the system needs of providers.
The synergy between these players will be key to improving the quality of Internet service in India and making the country "an IT superpower in the 21st century," said N. Parameswaran, deputy director general of India's Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
The ISP summit was attended by more than a hundred potential ISPs; Licenses for 21 private ISPs have already been issued since India's ISP market was opened to the private sector early in November.
The move by the IT giants is expected to boost sales of their offerings like Microsoft Commercial Internet System 2.0, Compaq servers, Cisco routers and Loral Orion backbone gateways. Analysts expect the ISP vendor market in India to be worth about $90 million in the next few years.
Sanjay Mirchandani, managing director of Microsoft India, said ISPs in India should help usher in the "Web lifestyle." Shobhit Dubey of Intel said the team would work together to target the ISP market. Team members would be given preference in ISP accounts handled by other members.
Other speakers included Mark Gilroy, vice president of Loral Orion (Asia Pacific), and Kallol Hazra, industry marketing manager of Compaq India.
In addition to the largest ISP player, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (VSNL), another government agency--Mumbai and Delhi telecom provider Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. (MTNL)--is planning aggressive moves in the ISP market.
The telecom intends to have Internet services up and running by Jan. 26, 1999 (India's Republic Day), according to managing director S. Rajagopalan, who spoke at a seminar in Bombay. MTNL will also provide its telephone directory online and an online payment system for phone bills.
ISP Satyam Infoway, the first private sector player, will finalize access deals with cable TV operators and PC manufacturers early next year, according to R. Ramaraj, managing director.
Satyam has launched two automobile sector sites to cash in on the e-commerce market: Automeet.com (targeted at the automobile and car parts industry) and Carstreet.com (for car purchases and finance).
State governments in India are also clambering onto the Internet bandwagon. The Kerala government's Advisory Council on Information Technology recently unveiled a set of 15 recommendations to make the state "intelligent" in the next 1,000 days via measures like telemedicine and the Internet connectivity of schools.
Regulatory issues still needing resolution include Internet telephony and the use of very small aperture terminals (VSATs) for ISP links.
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) will be organizing a national convention on telecommunications in New Delhi early in December to deal with such issues.
Elsewhere in India, John Davies, vice-president and general manager of Intel Asia Pacific, expressed his optimism that following the ISP policy, a regulatory framework conducive to the growth of the country's e-commerce industry would soon be unveiled.
Online banking services have already been unveiled by ICICI Bank and CitiBank India.
Intel's venture capital fund - a third of which will soon be targeted at Asian companies - has apparently shortlisted about six Indian companies for possible equity investments. Speaking in Chennai, Atul Vijaykar, Intel director for South Asia, said approvals would be announced early next year.
The growing list of ISP players in India now includes Reliance, Bharti BT, Koshika, Ortel, Rolta, RPG Sprint, Wipro, Global Electronic Commerce Services, SNC Infotech, Survin, Sukhkarta Financial Services, Datapro and Crompton Greaves.
Cities now covered by ISPs include Surat, Thiruvananthapuram, Satara, Jaipur, Bhubaneswar, Bareilly, Delhi, Vadodara, Durgapur, Karnal, Ahmedabad, Pune, Hyderabad, Patna and Rajkot.
India's 500,000 Internet user base is expected to triple next year thanks to the lifting of the ISP monopoly.