Telecom IT Solution

Globally, the
communications industry is emerging as one of the biggest users of information technology.
Unfortunately in India, telecom has not been able to live up to that kind of reputation,
primarily due to the policy and regulatory roadblocks which have affected the growth of
the newly opened telecommunications industry.

The size of the total telco solutions
market in India is still small compared to the tremendous potential that it has. According
to an estimate by Voice & Data, the total telco solutions market in India
excluding the DoT market was of the order of Rs 192 crore in 1997. The cash-starved
private sector (the private cellular and basic service providers) has gone in for the bare
minimum. As a result, the activity in the first phase has remained restricted only to the
billing and customer care segments, apart from high-end voicemail systems. Among other
solutions that have picked up of late are the pre-paid solutions though only a handful of
operators have finalized the orders.

Traditionally, telco solutions to DoT have
been supplied by a handful of companies like TCIL Bellsouth and CMC. But the opening of
cellular services industry attracted major players in international telco solutions to
India.

Billing was the first area to see major
activities. In the metro round, SEMA Group Telecom of UK emerged as the most successful
billing company, bagging four out of the eight orders. It was followed by LHS of Germany
with two orders. In the circle round, things changed and LHS did better business than
SEMA. Siemens Nixdorf India, a new player, also emerged successful, primarily because of a
big order from one operator, Reliance Telecom, which has licences for as many as seven
circles.


Customer Care & Billing
Operator
Circle
SI S/W H/W
Tata Teleservices Andhra Pradesh TCS Kenan Systems HP
Hughes Ispat Maharashtra Mahindra BT Alltel IBM
Bharti Telenet Madhya Pradesh HCL Infosys EHPT HP

By this time, some Indian companies had
gained considerable experience in systems integration by doing integration for companies
like LHS, Kingston SCL, and CSC Intellicon. Combining the traditional software development
strength of Indians and the acquired skill-set, a few companies like Siemens Information
Systems Ltd (SISL) and UBEST positioned themselves as total solutions providers in billing
while Hyderabad-based Satyam Computers decided to further develop itself as a systems
integrator. Today, these three companies have built good strength in telecom. UBEST needs
special mention. This small Calcutta-based group company of Usha Martin Industries has
established itself as a major player. The company’s first success came in the form of
a small order from Bharti Telenet, the cellular operator for Himachal Pradesh. The company
then looked outwards before claiming two more orders in India—that of Skycell in
Chennai which said goodbye to SEMA’s product and Srinivas Cellcom, the new cellular
licensee for Tamil Nadu.

With the private basic service operators
coming in, some new players have joined them. Among them are TCS which has bagged the
entire contract from Tata Teleservices in Andhra Pradesh and Mahindra BT, which is doing
the systems integration for Hughes Ispat in Maharashtra on behalf of Alltel.

Other areas that have seen some action are
the high-end voicemail market for the cellular operators where Comverse, alongwith its
subsidiary Boston Technology, has the major marketshare. Pre-paid has seen ORGA doing it
for Essar in Delhi, Brite for Hutchison Max in Mumbai, and Centigram for Bharti in Delhi.
Parsec also has done a small project for Bharti Telenet in Madhya Pradesh. This is the
area to watch. More than half a dozen orders could be finalized in pre-paid this year.

The major opportunity in telecom IS this
year will be the ISPs. While small billing solutions for them will be a hot product, many
will also go for enhanced fax service solutions. While pre-paid will continue to do well,
many cellular operators will turn to CT-enabled call centres.

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