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Friday, May 23, 2003

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BSNL's Bengal circle sets Rs 550-cr earnings target

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THE West Bengal Telecom Circle of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), comprising the States of West Bengal minus the Kolkata Telecom District and Sikkim, has targeted a revenue of Rs 550 crore in the current fiscal. In 2002-03, the West Bengal Telecom Circle earned a revenue of Rs 498 crore, up from Rs 431 crore generated in 2001-02, according to Mr R.V. Datar, Chief General Manager of BSNL's West Bengal Telecom Circle.

Addressing presspersons here on Thursday, Mr Datar said a capital outlay of Rs 548 crore has been earmarked for the current fiscal. Most of this amount would go towards meeting the costs of cables and apparatus. An amount of Rs 32 crore has been earmarked for expenditure on BSNL's cellular initiatives. The direct exchange lines capacity would be augmented by 216,000 during the current fiscal.

Mr Datar said the West Bengal Telecom Circle has a switch capacity of nearly 15 lakh fixed lines, including a new capacity of over two lakh lines that were added last fiscal. The number of WLL (Wireless in Local Loop) connections now stands in excess of 27,000 even as the number of cellular connections provided in 32 towns, highways and rail routes has been pegged at 92,000.

The target for additional fixed landlines in 2003-04 has been pegged at 1.30 lakh. The corresponding figures for GSM cellular and WLL connections have been fixed at 80,000 and 75,000, respectively. The average revenue from each cellular customer is stated to be around Rs 800 per month.

According to Mr Datar, setting up small exchanges was proving to be capital-intensive. As such, it has been decided that the technology for the last mile rural connectivity would be based on WLL or cellular telephony.

The capital cost incurred on each cellular line at present is Rs 8,000. This is estimated to come down to Rs 4,000 per line soon. In contrast, the capital cost incurred by BSNL on each fixed telephone line is Rs 21,000. Hence, the decision to do away with fixed line exchanges for the last mile connectivity and replace it with WLL or GSM mobile.

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