72 ISP Licenses Issued In India

The number of ISP licenses issued in India has reached 72, ever since the governments ISP monopoly was lifted on November 6 last year.

Fourteen licenses have been awarded for national-level ISPs, 24 for ISPs
at the state level and in the major metros, and 34 for ISPs smaller
cities and towns.

Some, like Weikfield Mnemonix InfoNetworks here in Pune, have already
commenced operations.

Coupled with the increase in number of ISP players is a growing push for
increasing PC penetration and promoting local language Webware and
content, in a computer industry largely dominated by the English
language.

R.R. Jain, chairman of the National Association of Software & Service
Companies, said India has 2.8 PCs for every 1,000 people. The Indian
government aims to reach a penetration of 10 PCs for every 1,000 persons
by 2002.

Private ISP players at the national level include Satyam Infoway,
Sukharta Finance, IndusInd Distribution, Zee Telefilm, Wipro, Global
Electronics, Dishnet, and Sprint RPG.

Five public sector agencies are also eyeing the national ISP market:
Ircon, CMC, STPI, ERNET and Punjab Wireless.

Chennai-based Satyam Infoway was the first national-level private ISP to
commence operations last year, with services in 12 cities. Much
attention is also focusing on the government telecom provider for the
major metros of Mumbai and New Delhi, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd
(MTNL).

MTNL’s tariffs are 15 per cent lower than that of Videsh Sanchar Nigam
Ltd (VSNL), which till recently was the monopoly ISP for the consumer
and commercial market.

MTNL has reportedly signed up 1,500 subscribers, Satyam Infoway has
15,000 subscribers, and VSNL has 150,000 subscribers. Shared accounts
and the presence of cybercafes and Internet kiosks account for a total
user base in the country of about a million online citizens.

MTNL charges about $200 for a 500-hour account, along with a one-time
registration charge of $10; VSNL and Satyam Infoway have higher rates.

“We are not competing on price alone,” said R. Ramraj, managing director
of Satyam Infoway. The ISP also has offerings in e-commerce and EDI.

Indian software companies are expected to turn to the Software
Technology Parks of India (STPI) for international gateways from its own
earth-to-satellite links. STPI has gateways in 13 locations in India.

Challenges still remain in ensuring a level playing field for Indian
ISPs. The Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI) has
lodged a formal complaint with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
(TRAI) against VSNL and MTNL regarding issues like procedural hassles in
getting phone lines and inadequate allocation of Internet bandwidth.

Some ISPs like Satyam Infoway are expected to launch their own
international gateways.

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