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Wednesday, Jan 21, 2004

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Dishnet reviving undersea cable project plan

Kripa Raman

Mumbai , Jan. 20

IS Dishnet DSL part of Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd's undersea cable project connecting Chennai and Singapore?

The Chairman of Dishnet DSL, Dr Vijay Bhatkar, says his company is reviving its undersea fibre optic cable project that was shelved sometime ago.

"But we are now reviving the plan and are in talks with Tyco Telecommunications and with the Tata group," he told Business Line.

VSNL, meanwhile, has already signed a supply contract with US-based Tyco Telecommunication, a provider of undersea fibre optic systems; an announcement to this effect was made by Tyco in November this year, at the same time when VSNL formally announced its new undersea project without naming its collaborators.

"We have given the supply contract to Tyco," said a top VSNL executive who declined comment on whether Dishnet DSL is part of the venture.

The Sterling Infotech group company Dishnet DSL already has a tie-up with Tata Teleservices (TTSL) for co-location of its multiplexers across the latter's circles of operation for providing TTSL customers broadband access.

This tie-up as well as Dishnet plans for revival of its cable project have led some industry watchers to suggest that Dishnet and the Tata group might be headed for a more enduring relationship.

However, both parties have formally declined comment on this issue.

"Construction is under way on the Tata Indicom Chennai-Singapore Cable System, a system which is over 3,100 km in length and capable of carrying up to 5.12 Tb/s of transmission capacity when fully upgraded. The network is designed to meet the current and future voice, data and Internet bandwidth demands from India to South East Asia and beyond," says the announcement of the Tyco-VSNL agreement on the former's Web site.

Dr Bhatkar, however, says there are costing problems for an ISP provider when it comes to international bandwidth leading to and out of India, specifically.

"We can get bandwidth either through cable or through satellite; but satellite bandwidth is not conducive for videophony or videoconferening which is going to be a feature of the future."

And, although VSNL has 10 gbps of bandwidth and Bharti-Singtel's i2i around 7 terrabits per second of bandwidth, and the Reliance group the FLAG network, Dr Bhatkar points that all these entities selling wholesale bandwidth are also in the game of providing the same services that their bandwidth clients are interested in.

"To get the best costs, you need to have your own bandwidth, currently one is not able to cost oneself," points out an executive with one of the companies.

Currently, Internet pricing is such that international bandwidth accounts for 40 per cent of costs, said Dr Bhatkar.

The problem of costs in international bandwidth is only with respect to cable connecting India.

Once one connects to a destination such as Singapore, onward costs are extremely competitive, pointed out a VSNL executive.

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