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GSM is present, and CDMA is going to be the future

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VoicenData Bureau
New Update

Prithipal Singh, the soft-spoken chairman and managing director of

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, knows well where to be aggressive. BSNL’s

success in the cellular business is an ample proof of that. In an exclusive

interview with VOICE&DATA, Singh outlines what one can expect from

BSNL in the near future:

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You have been saying that growth will now come from wireless. So what

happens to the fixed business?



For the past six to seven years, we have consistently maintained a growth

rate of about 22—25 percent in fixed lines. We have now nearing a saturation.

Therefore, it is now the turn of wireless to grow.

India

still has a low tele-density, and both fixed and wireless technologies have

significant but slightly different roles to play. Being a very mature

technology, fixed still has an edge over wireless in terms of voice quality and

the access bandwidth that it can deliver to end-customers. Wireless technologies

focus on providing mobility; they are also more cost-effective in terms of capex

requirements, and will therefore continue to exhibit strong growth in India in

the near future.

Our strategy in fixed lines business will be to consolidate our existing base

and further bring down fault rates. We shall provide increased number of

value-added services such as broadband on our copper loop, providing services

such as high-speed always-on Internet access and video-based services. Corporate

houses still require fixed line because of its excellent voice quality, and

therefore there shall be growth in the fixed line business also for some more

time, though the growth rates may not be of the same scale as in the wireless.

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What can we expect from BSNL in the near future on the broadband service

front?



For broadband services to really take off, the important factors are

connectivity and content, and above all, the pricing. Quality and locally

relevant content has to be built up, in order to provide residential customer

the incentive to exploit and enjoy the capabilities of broadband services. Most

of the content still resides outside India, which adds to the transportation

cost and therefore makes the total solution expensive. Besides, the content is

not customized to local needs. We intend to stimulate local content creation by

opening up our network. As such, BSNL customers can look forward to enjoying

high-speed Internet access through expansion of our DIAS services, and broadband

services for our fixed line customers though our franchisees in selected cities.

Are you considering the same kind of aggressive market strategy for CDMA

services as GSM?



At BSNL, it is customer demands and perceptions that play an important role

in defining our strategies and focus areas. GSM is more established nationally

vis-à-vis CDMA, in terms of providing seamless mobility and wider availability

of attractively priced handsets. However, CDMA is certainly the technology of

the future, and as the market matures and customers look forward to services

other than basic connectivity, CDMA will have a greater role to play.

Already, BSNL is using CDMA in a major way to meet rural telephony demands.

CDMA is more cost effective than wireline technologies for providing basic

telephony services. In all, BSNL plans to add about 2 million line capacity

through CDMA this year to enhance rural and urban connectivity.

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Excepting SMS, mobile data services haven’t picked up in India. Can BSNL

change that?



BSNL can certainly give a big impetus to growth of mobile data services by

making use of cost-effective technologies and leveraging its economies-of-scale

and national footprint. We plan to add GPRS capability to our GSM infrastructure

in the near future, and upgrade it with EDGE and other 3G technologies as the

demand picks up.

Are you open to partnerships with small service providers for marketing

BSNL’s services?



We are open to any approach that can catalyze customer demand, and help us

provide better telecom services. Building synergies through partnerships and

franchisees is certainly one of our primary thrust areas. We have made use of

franchisees and dealers in marketing our GSM services. We are looking at

partnerships with banks (for prepaid recharge through ATMs), media-based

companies (for providing SMS, IVRS-based content services and broadband

services), and handset manufactures.

Ravi Shekhar Pandey

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