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Indian ISPs To Increase Int'l Bandwidth To 300 Mbps

Indian government ISP Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) will expand its international bandwidth to at least 300 Mbps this year, up from the current bandwidth of 80 Mbps, according to managing director Amitabh Kumar.

Forty-one ISP's have now received licenses from the Department of Telecommunications, and more than 20 of these private ISP's have filed applications with VSNL for 2 Mbps international Internet links. VSNL offers connectivity to the international Internet via links to the U.S., Europe and other Asian countries like Singapore.

Other international gateway providers include the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI). It was formerly an autonomous society of India's Department of Electronics (DoE) focusing on the promotion of software exports from the country.

Until India's new liberalized ISP policy was announced on November 6th last year, the international Internet gateway business was monopolized by VSNL.

STPI's datacom experience has now made it a contender for providing international connectivity. Eight private ISPs have reportedly approached STPI for gateway access. STPI Director P. S. Narotra said plans are underway to add six earth stations to its existing nine.

The BPL group, a private consortium entering the ISP game, also plans to offer an independent international gateway for its customers via BPL Net, the Internet services company floated by the group. It is reportedly in discussions with AT&T, MCI Worldcom and Unisource as possible gateway providers from its Mumbai earth station.

Connectivity to the global Net via satellite is a feasible option for start-up and smaller ISP's in India, said Mark Gilroy, Singapore-based vice president of sales for Loral Orion.

Loral Orion has a joint venture with Natelco, providing ground segment services in India.

The actual setting up of an international gateway, however, is subject to clearance from the Defence Ministry for security reasons. The government has set up a committee to evaluate these security implications.

Of the 41 companies which have now signed up to be ISP's, seven intend rolling out operations all over India (to about six cities).

Thirteen prospective ISPs are targeting states and the major metros like Mumbai and New Delhi, and 21 are targeting only the larger cities. One ISP each has focused on the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Punjab.

In 1999, the number of cities and towns in India with Internet access is expected to go up from the current 40 to over 70.