Private firms to play crucial role in boosting phone density

Thursday, 23 January 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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CHENNAI: Indian private telephone service providers will play a major role in sharply increasing phone density in the country over the next few years, according to experts.

"Tele-density in India has a long way to go. The growth of the telecom sector governs the economic growth of the nation and the two are correlated," said R. Balachandran, chief operating officer of Tata Teleservices.

"In India, it is not who gets a bigger slice of the telecom pie, the reality is that the pie itself is getting bigger and bigger and there is scope for as many players as would be necessary to spur the market," Balachandran said.

Only three percent of India's one billion people have telephones but the number of subscribers is expected to double in five years, with even faster growth for mobile phones, a booming industry that currently has over 10 million users.

Tata Teleservices, an arm of the diversified conglomerate Tata Group, has decided to invest 12 billion in Tamil Nadu in the next five years. The company plans to capture 65 percent of the telecom market in India by 2010.

M.S. Ravichandran, chief technology officer of Touchtel, said private telecom players has contributed to the emergence of the communication culture and environment in the Indian telephone market.

"State-run BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd.) could have long ago taken the country through a telecom revolution if resources available with private players today were made available to them," he said.

He said countries in Europe matched requirements of different Indian states and "roaming facility based on global system for mobile communications (GSM) platform was the need of the hour."

Both private players conceded that BSNL, the country's largest phone services firm, still has a competitive edge over other players in the sector with a subscriber base that is over 50 years old.

K. Mahadevan, chief general manager (Tamil Nadu circle) of BSNL admitted that private players had taught them to "value customer needs."

Outlining the dramatic change in service quality that has taken place, Mahadevan noted that in 1985, heavy rains could disrupt services in an exchange for as much as two months.

"Multiple cable faults were some of the excruciatingly painful processes that we had to go through," he said.

BSNL today has 2,666 electronic and digital exchanges all over India. The BSNL official, however, said: "unless it matches the service quality provided by private players, BSNL will die".
Source: IANS
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