Indian Internet Race Increases to 30 ISPs

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

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

The government’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) plans launching
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

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.

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