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Reliance, Bharti among 5 to get letters of intent for ILD

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The Minister for Communications and IT, Mr Pramod Mahajan, the President of Telecommunications Industrial Association, Mr Matthew Flanigan, the Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries, Mr Mukesh Ambani, and Chief Technology Officer, Lucent Technology, Dr Arun Netravali, at the inauguration of SUPERCOMM ASIA-2002 in the Capital on Wednesday.

NEW DELHI, Feb. 20

THE Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has issued letters of intent (LI) to five companies - Reliance, Bharti, Data Access, Connecting Networks and Pacific Net Invest - for starting international long-distance services, which are being opened up for competition on April 1.

Disclosing this at the inauguration of the three-day SUPERCOMM ASIA 2002, the Union Communications Minister, Mr Pramod Mahajan, said that the companies would be issued a licence after they fulfilled all the conditions, including submitting a one-time entry fee of Rs 25 crore and an unconditional bank guarantee of Rs 25 crore.

"If they do so tomorrow, then the department will hand over the licence immediately. This is indicative of the sincerity and speed with which we have been working on opening up the sector for competition," he said.

The Minister noted that guidelines for Internet telephony would also be issued by the end of March, in time for the entry of private operators.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) submitted its recommendations on Internet telephony on Wednesday. Mr Mahajan said that telecom was a success story in the country and had traversed a long distance over the years. Due to the pace of technological changes in the telecom sector, it was becoming difficult to provide constant conditions to promote level playing fields to different operators.

However, in the era of changes, the customer remained the final player to judge the services offered. He said the Government was trying its level best to spread awareness about the tools of connectivity.

One of the major areas was to promote value-addition and accessibility to services linking telephones to the remote villages. Although the country had come a long way, it still had to reach world standards and tackle the issue of high tariffs.

Earlier, in his keynote address, Mr Mukesh Ambani, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries Ltd, said that the telecom venture of the company would be launched in 1,500 cities and towns in 18 States in a few months.

"We have already set up an organisation of 10,000 professionals and a large community of developers. We will now seek to forge relationships with other private players, so that there is a collective sharing of infrastructure," he said.

The others who spoke on the occasion included the Telecom Secretary, Mr Shyamal Ghosh; the President, Telecommunications Industry Association, Mr Matthew Flanigan; the Chief Technology Officer, Lucent Technologies, Mr Arun Netraval; and the US Ambassador, Mr Robert D. Blackwill.

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