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Wednesday, Sep 25, 2002

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Satellite solution for village telephony

G. Rambabu

NEW DELHI, Sept. 24

HERE is some good news for Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and the private basic operators who have been unable to reach out to the rural and remote corners of the country due to the unviable cost structure and technical hiccups.

ASIA Cellular Satellite (ACeS), one of the major satellite companies in the Asia-Pacific region, is all set to start operations in the country, offering Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite (GMPCS) services that promise to cut the costs of setting up village public telephones (VPT) by nearly 50 per cent and even allowing the operators to set up base in areas which were hitherto unreachable.

According to Mr Sanjeev Kakkar, Vice-President Shyam AceS India (Pvt) Ltd, the Indian arm of firm, the letter of intent (LI) for the GMPCS services issued by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will be converted into a licence shortly, following which it will be able to commercially launch the operations. The basic operators can then utilise it for meeting their VPT targets.

"We have nearly completed the process of building the required infrastructure which includes the setting up of the AceS gateway. The commercial services will be started after the commissioning and integration of the AceS India gateway with the AceS space segment i.e. the Garuda Satellite. We already have the LI, which we hope to convert into a licence soon,'' he said.

Mr Kakkar pointed out that the provisioning of VPTs is very difficult and challenging in most of the villages because of the difficult geographical constraints. Also a large percentage of the VPTs are faced with operational problems in terms of inadequate battery backup to sustain long duration of operations in the absence of electricity.

Due to difficult reach out of the distant villages there are limitations in respect of timely maintainability of faulty units. The AceS system takes care of these glitches. The whole unit can be carried around in a bag, is lightweight and comes with backup solar powered units in sharp contrast to the existing technologies being employed by the basic operators, he said.

The initial focus of the company is, therefore, to complement the efforts of BSNL and other private operators in enhancing rural connectivity and meeting the obligations of providing public village telephones.

"The product is highly integrated with very high standby working capability in the absence of external power supply. BSNL has approved a pilot project to demonstrate the AceS fixed phone services for VPT application in remote areas. Once the pilot project is implemented, we are hopeful that BSNL will see the merit of this solution for connecting the difficult villages, since utilisation of a satellite satisfies the need to cover a vast area and minimise the needs for ground based resources,'' he said.

The GMPCS services of the company are being widely used in Indonesia and the Philippines where it has been found to be the most cost effective way to provide connectivity to the hundreds of islands in each country. On the whole, ACeS provides services in 24 countries and India should soon join the bandwagon, he said.

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