RealTime IT News

UK's Worldtel Offers To Develop India's Net Infrastructure

The UK-based telecom giant Worldtel has proposed signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Maharashtra government to develop its Internet infrastructure.

"The $100 million project, which would provide Internet backbone for local language and content, was proposed at a meeting in Mumbai with Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane, the state's finance minister, planning board chief and top officials," said Sam Pitroda, Worldtel's chief executive officer and former chairman of Indian Telecom Commission.

Pitroda pointed out that the Maharashtra government would be expected to take an equity in the project which envisages setting up Internet community centers and enabling people to access information on various matters such as land records and birth certificates directly, without having to approach the official agencies.

The Maharashtra state government in association with Worldtel, a company originally set up by International Telecom Union, will develop Internet community centers along with standard trunk dialing-public call operator (STD-PCO) booths.

Another round of discussions is expected next week when the Maharashtra state government responds to the proposal.

Pitroda pointed out that the MOU signed will give a two-pronged thrust on providing Internet services at affordable costs and provide jobs to unemployed educated youths.

Worldtel has already entered into a Rs 400 crore ($93.9 million) joint venture with the Gujarat government to set up comprehensive modern information communication network and recently signed an agreement with the Tamil Nadu government to establish 1,000 Internet community centers, each with 20 terminals.

Pitroda added that WorldTel was holding discussions on a joint venture with leading industrial groups. "We are discussing with big groups who have the financial muscle and a professional working atmosphere," he said.

The company has signed agreements with the governments of six states - Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, West Bengal, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh - for setting up Internet infrastructure including an optical fibre-based network and providing Internet services.

As per the arrangement, the state government-owned companies will hold up to 26 percent equity in the venture, while the remaining 74 percent will be equally distributed between WorldTel and the third partner.

While WorldTel was planning to have different partners for its projects in different states, now it has decided to have a single private partner for all the projects.

"After a long debate we have come to the conclusion that it will be easy to work with a single partner," said Pitroda. It is learnt that four more states - Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan - have approached WorldTel for Internet projects.

Pitroda, who is identified with India's telecom revolution a decade ago, plans to set up Internet community centers throughout the country in line with the STD-PCO booths, which was his brainchild when he was the Telecom Commission chairman.

"The idea is to spread the use of Internet by establishing an optical fibre-based network and Internet community centers throughout the country," said Pitroda. The company plans to develop the contents in local languages which is essential for the diffusion of Internet applications.

"Internet is ideally suited for state-level applications and can be adapted to local languages. All government functions, including ration cards, police reports, health and community requirements can be addressed through this facility," said Pitroda.