With the urban telecom market becoming highly competitive
and reaching saturation levels, basic service providers
(government, private) are turning to rural markets.
to B D Khurana, group president, Reliance Infocomm, half
of the 300-million population with an annual income of
Rs 1.5 lakh is in rural areas. A market that cannot
the industry in the rural thrust is Bharat Sanchar Nigam
(BSNL), with Reliance and Shyam Telelink following. Curiously,
all the three have placed their faith on corDECT wireless
in the local loop (WLL), the desi telecom technology
that offers simultaneous voice and data (Internet) services.
catchment area is semi-urban and rural areas, says
Shubhendu Ghosh, deputy director general (strategic planning),
BSNL. According to him, BSNL has installed 110 lakh lines
in the rural areas connecting 5 lakh out of 6 lakh Indian
the corporate level BSNL intends to add 11 lakh WLL lines,
40 lakh mobile and 29.14 lakh basic service lines. The
company has planned a whopping Rs 1,50,000 crore capex.
other telecom service providers that focussed on urban
areas first and slowly went outwards towards semi-urban
and rural areas, Reliance Infocomm follows a different
strategy. The company first set its nationwide infrastructure
(urban and rural) and will be rolling out its services
simultaneously in both the areas.
to BSNL, Reliance has reposed immense faith in corDECT
WLL ordering 1.5 million lines. According to Khurana,
2,000 DECT interface units (DIU) have been set up and
4,200 village phones have been installed. Wherever
we have put a village phone, we get a request for three-four
individual phone connections in those places.
further fillip is expected in the case of rural connectivity
as the telecom regulating authority, under the Universal
Services Obligation Fund scheme, is thinking of including
rural franchisees of telcos as eligible towards getting
financial assistance. The fund has floated a tender for
replacement of 2 lakh village public telephones. A large
number of them are working on MARR systems.
the fund has also proposed to provide data transmission
and Internet facilities within 5 kms of every village
by the year 2004. As a mere telephone line will not be
of much help to the rural populace, Ghosh says useful
content has to be created and offered on the net. That
is one weak spot which we are trying to address.
content is not a problem for Shyam Telelink. It has tied
up with n-Logue Communications that owns Chiraag Internet
cafes. Operating as Shyam Telelinks rural franchisee
providing telephone services in rural Rajasthan, n-Logue
has tied up with corporates like EID Parry/Tafe for agri-related
content. The company has also tied up with a couple of
agricultural and veterinary institutes.