Private Mobile Radio Trunking Services: PSTN-connectivity at last?

The Private Mobile Radio Trunking Services (PMRTS) industry
was coming into its own in the communications industry last year. As a niche
segment, this industry managed to attract some attention from the communications
regulator, TRAI, and the licensor, DoT, at last. TRAI came out with some welcome
recommendations, such as allowing PSTN connectivity and interconnectivity
between systems; and suggesting a changeover to digital technologies. This
development came as a recognition of the significant role played by this

Looking at this segment from a performance point of view, it
is still very small. The industry comprised of barely ten active service
providers. During last fiscal, one saw a major player exiting the market, and
three significant players being acquired by the formidable Zee group. This had a
healthy effect on the industry as subscriber base swelled up to 24,345. This was
a growth of 26 percent compared to the previous fiscal when the subsciber base
was barely 19,269. What was even more significant was that some positive
indications started emerging from the revenue point of view. The total turnover
grew 20 percent from Rs 29.75 crore in 1999-00, to Rs 35.80 crore during the
last fiscal. That this services segment was maturing was indicated by the fact
that services formed 70 percent of revenue, as against 10 percent of radio
handset sales. This is an improvement from the previous fiscal’s 62 percent
share and a much lower 43 percent during 1998-99.

The average price of a mobile radio trunking handset during last year was Rs
15,000. And the total handset market stood at Rs 10.65 crore, Motorola
commanding more than 80 percent of the market.

15,000–which is four to five time costlier than an ordinary
dial-up modem.

Gateways Populate
the Skyline

An important milestone during the last fiscal was the
establishment of a huge number of private and shared international Internet
gateways by the ISPs. The government had given the go-ahead during the previous
year. By the end of the fiscal, there were more than 25 ISPs who had set up
their own international gateways, in addition to the bandwith from VSNL. Many
like Satyam Infoway, Bharti BT Internet, Data Access, and Wipronet, had set up
gateways in more than one city.

Yet another welcome step came in the form of permission to private ISPs to
set up their own submarine cable landing station and bring in under-sea
cable-based bandwidth into the country. And towards the course of the fiscal,
two serious aqua-bandwidth
players emerged in the form of the Bharti-Singtel combine and the Dishnet-Tyco
combine. At the end of the year the total Internet bandwidth subscribed in the
country stood at a little more than 1 Gbps.

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