British Telecom alleges VSNL blocking calls to its Indian centres
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British Telecom alleges VSNL blocking calls to its Indian centres

By SiliconIndia   |   Monday, 22 December 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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LONDON: British Telecom (BT) chairman Christopher Bland has made a personal plea to the Indian government over a dispute with VSNL.

Reports say the British telecom giant was being blocked from routing calls to two call centres in India by the country's international telecom service provider.

BT wants to send calls to new directory inquiry centres in Bangalore and New Delhi using Bharti Telecom, a rival to former monopoly VSNL.

The calls would be carried by a network of undersea fibre optic cables owned by Reliance.

Bland told Mail on Sunday: "We are spending £3 million on call centres in India and £105 million on 31 call centres in the UK and on the continent."

But he said VSNL was refusing to allow Bharti to connect into its network, creating a bottleneck.

A spokesman for Bland denied claims that he had threatened to freeze investment in India unless the dispute was resolved. "He was asked to raise the issue by BT Global, but has not spoken of stopping the call centres," he said.

VSNL carries about 80 per cent of India's international traffic but is losing out to cheaper rivals as foreign companies set up call centres, creating huge demand for international circuits.

The newspaper reported that the Indian High Commission in London had intervened following BT's protest, and quoted a source as saying the commercial attache had brokered a four-way meeting in New Delhi to discuss the issue.

BT is not alone in pressing New Delhi to make VSNL more accommodating. The report said the CompTel/ASCENT Alliance, a trade body representing more than 400 companies, had also told the Indian government that VSNL was creating an artificial shortage of capacity.

The newspaper quoted a source as saying: "The companies warned the government that India was not the only country where the wages were low and skills were high. Malaysia and the Philippines are both under consideration as locations for call centre and back office functions."

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