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Small Indian Firms Lining Up To Be ISPs

Small firms are queuing up for ISP licenses. Privatization of Internet services appears to have unleashed the entrepreneurial spirit in small firms throughout the country.

This is evident from the growing list of applicants who are being invited by the department of telecom (DoT) to sign the license agreement.

Sources point out that among the applicants, there are more than 12 companies which want to provide nation-wide services (classified as category A), and just 19 want to provide services in the four metros and four other major cities (grouped under category B).

The remaining 45 companies have applied for smaller cities and areas which fall under category C.

So far, sources maintain, just one Mumbai-based firm--Sukhkarta Fin Trade--has signed up for an 'all-India' license.

Among the most easily recognizable companies in this category are Reliance, for which a 'conditional' license agreement has to be framed because it is on the defaulters' list of DoT, and the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL), which has been a monopoly Internet service provider thus far and must now sign a new license agreement with DoT, like the others.

Sources maintain that other aspirants in this group include Punjab Wireless Systems (Chandigarh), T.S. Associates, and Ircon International.

However, several companies are still making a beeline and approaching DoT for application forms.

The forms have been in short supply and officials are busy getting 500 copies ready for those who have left their names and demand draft numbers with the department, sources maintain.

Several big telecom companies have shown their eagerness to start signing up, maintained an official from DoT.

"We are getting calls from some of them, but if they have defaulted on payment of license fee for basic and cellular licenses, they will have to sign a conditional license," he added.

"The inquiries have been numerous and varied," he pointed out. One caller from Paris wanted to know why there was a ban on Internet telephony.

Another caller wanted an explanation as to what exactly does the Internet entail and how he could go about applying to become an ISP.

By and large, officials have asked these new 'entrepreneurs' to visit the Web site for details regarding application form, guidelines, general information and the draft of the license agreement.

However, officials clarified that they would not entertain any copies of the application or license agreement downloaded from the Net.

"It could be a good thing to do. Download the form, fill it and send it to us and then sign the agreement. That's what the Internet is all about. But we want to be sure that every word of the agreement to be signed is unchanged. If somebody introduces innocuous-looking, but dangerous, changes in the agreement terms, that will be something that is not allowed," added the official.

Moreover, he added, "we would like to check the bonafides of the person and that is something that the Internet does not allow us to do as yet here."



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