RealTime IT News

Indian Internet Race Increases to 30 ISPs

Thirty companies have received Internet access licenses in India since the ISP market was liberalized in early November.

Hinduja-promoted IndusInd Distributors has recently received an ISP license for the nation-wide market, and another group company (IndusInd Cable) has obtained a regional license for the Mumbai market.

IT company Wipro Infotech has also received a national ISP license. Another national ISP, Global Electronic Commerce Services (formerly known as Global Telecom Services), plans to launch Internet access in 12 cities via 100 franchisees next quarter.

The ISP will primarily be targeting corporate Internet users, according to Fritz D'Silva, managing director at Global. The company already has a datacom network connecting 10 cities.

Other ISP's with regional market licenses include Hyderabad-based Southern Online (for Andhra Pradesh), Pune-based WMINet (for Maharashtra), Manipal Control Data (for Karnataka), and MTNL (to launch in Mumbai and New Delhi on January 26).

ISP's focusing on specific cities only now include Cosmos Link Network (for Baroda and Surat), Surevin Consultants (Ghaziabad), United Internet Communication (Jaipur), Bareilly Communications (Bareilly), and Rolta (Mumbai).

The government's Department of Telecommunications (DoT) plans launching Internet services by March next year. It will have 45 points of presence in 25 cities which will enable it to offer dial-in connections to 106 locations.

DoT also plans to offer connectivity services to city-focused ISP's, and will be issuing tenders for a national Internet backbone in about a month.

Private ISP Satyam Infoway has formed an alliance with Intel Asia to offer its Internet connectivity and e-commerce products software to Intel customers by bundling the service with Intel-based desktops.

"Working with Intel will provide us with access to the latest technology and enable us to reach a wide market through their vendor partners," said R. Ramaraj, managing director at Satyam.

Satyam Infoway plans to roll out its access service in 12 cities by the end of December; the Bangalore launch is slated for December 28th.

Ortel, the Orissa-based subsidiary of Indian Metal and Ferro-Alloys, became the first licensed ISP and will be providing access via cable TV. Also joining the cable delivery race are a number of media groups and industrial houses, like Zee Telefilms (ZTL), RPG Group and the Hindujas.

Ortel plans to launch Internet access in Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack, and five other cities in the state of Orissa after that. Challenges remain in devising feasible billing systems and in the high costs of cable modems (over $250), according to analysts.

At the device level, Arjun Malhotra, co-founder of Indian IT giant HCL, has teamed up with Texas University professor Manukonda Reddy to launch a company called InfoPlex which will bring Internet kiosks to the Indian market.

K.B. Chandrasekhar, co-founder and chairman of Exodus Communications, said he would pump in about $2 million of personal funds to 4-5 Indian Internet start-ups over the next 12 months.

Despite the interest in Internet access, concerns are being raised about the security issues accompanying the growth of nationwide networks.

Without proper measures, the Internet market could leave the country wide open to "cyberattacks," warn computer security experts like N. Seshagiri, head of the National Informatics Center (NIC).

The Bhabha Atomic Research Center site was hacked into earlier this year, after India's nuclear tests in May.

Some defense experts feel the new security perception should include information technology--especially the Internet and the mobile satellite communications--as a threat area as well.