Today, Internet has more than 40 million users
world-wide. According to Morgan Stanley, this figure is expected
to reach 160 million by the year 2000. Basically, a
network-to-network connection which would mean that all the
networks, sub-networks, and intranets are interconnected,
Internet today has become the new road upon which our voice,
data, and images travel.
This was something that Internet was not
supposed to be initially. So, it was not designed to provide the
kind of fault tolerance and assured delivery that the business
users expect. On the other hand, the present telecom
infrastructure was also not designed for this kind of traffic
Added to this is the emergence of what is
called intranet, the organization-wide “internet” that
provides the users with a common interface for all their
applications. Many organizations use them as their sole corporate
computing medium for employees. Many a times, these intranets are
interfaced with Internet and try to use the latter as a medium of
This has resulted in a lot of pressure on
Internet. This also means that the Internet services have
tremendous business opportunities. Looking at this, many
traditional telecom operators have embraced Internet service
business. In other words, Internet and intranets have created
both challenges and opportunities for service providers
specializing in data networking.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) exist to
provide access to services on Internet. But for the first-time
service providers, the whole game is an expensive proposition.
These ISPs have to build and maintain modem pools, routers, and
thousands of other relative infrastructure nodes and resources.
The hardware and technical design problems should not be solved
by the ISPs. These should be left to the equipment vendors and
solution providers. And an ISP must worry about marketing,
content production, and about technical innovation of the
business, where it excels.
Most of the ISPs use a network in such a way
that the entire Internet traffic is routed over the voice network
through local switches to the tandem switches and then to the
toll/TAX office. Toll/TAX office then interfaces to the
centralized VSNL modem pool for access to VSNL backbone and
servers and then to Internet. The existing network is already
congested and VSNL has almost stopped giving any more Internet
connections to the customers.
Infrastructure and data network architecture
being used at present have several challenges to be addressed.
- Congestion on the voice network. The
traffic requirements per Internet subscriber are very
high (0.3-0.6 Erlang approx.) and existing voice network
is designed for 0.1-0.2 Erlang per subscriber. This
excess load on the local and tandem switches of the voice
network is degrading the overall network performance.
- Limited number of ports and modems.
The number of modems and ports are limited which is
resulting in limited subscribers access to Internet.
- A complex network. This network has
too many lines, adapters, servers, and cables. This makes
the network more complex and also results in poor quality
- Limited SNMP. Does not have Simple
Network Management Protocol (SNMP) on all devices. SNMP
basically manages the nodes on IP network.
- All the devices are not secure.
- No remote management on all devices.
- No dynamic traffic-to-line allocation.
- Long holding time on voice network.
- Dissatisfied customer. Since the
existing infrastructure is not able to support high speed
and quality service, it results in dissatisfied
customers. At times, www means World Wide Weight.
growth of Internet may have created problems for ISPs, but it
provides several opportunities to them in offering bundled
services and in demand capitalization. Some of the typical
services which could be bundled with Internet include:
- Analog access (up to 28.8 kbps) and ISDN
access–64 and 128 kbps.
- Dedicated access, i.e. leased line of 64
kbps/2 mbps speed.
- Free space for home page, Netscape
- Help desk, web page development, and
- Consulting/training, messaging database,
and directory services.
- Domain name registration, security
- Credit card billing and commerce.
Phasing out huge networks is not an easy task
from the investment point of view as a major chunk of the
investment has already gone into modems and trunks and into
technical support. (The present network is full of modems and
trunks which has resulted in heavy investments and the large
number of nodes in this network have resulted in more number of
technical support/staff). Apart from this, there are other
- Costly router ports. This is because a
single router is not being utilized to its speed (access
- High access charges. The access charges
are high because of multiple Point Of Presence (POP)
- Inefficient network management. Since the
existing network is not well planned and it has many
types of nodes that have to be maintained, it is really
difficult to maintain the network cost effectively.
- Little customer loyalty. Because of poor
network performance and poor customer care, the customer
does not show any loyalty to its ISP.
- Poor customer education. Presently, ISPs
are not focusing on customer training or creating
awareness on Internet and its access. Even corporate
customers have not been given any attention. ISPs really
have to educate the customer.
Challenges Before The
The main challenge before an
ISP is meeting the huge traffic demand and providing quality
service in a cost-effective manner. There are other areas of
concern too. These include:
- Providing high-speed connections for
quality service to corporate customers.
- Profitably expand data networking options
for ISP and enterprise customers.
- Increase profitability and improve
efficiency of the inter-switched network.
- Providing premises functionality in a
central office environment resulting in improved user
- Deliver a carrier-grade access,
navigational, and security platform resulting in new
revenue generation and cost saving.
To meet Internet
and ISPs’ challenges, the government must plan right
policies and allow several ISPs for country-wide network. In
fact, most of the countries have several ISPs to cater to their
needs in an efficient and cost-effective manner. At the same
time, ISPs need to plan a separate data network to suffice this
kind of huge requirements. And, ISPs may be allowed to get into
the Internet content services business.
These ISPs will be expected to build the
information superhighways in a short duration. As Internet users
mostly have a dial-up access on the existing voice network using
conventional modems. This approach of providing Internet
connection brings the traffic to a stand still/congestion in the
peak hours. In fact, Internet users are looking for something
faster like ISDN, cable modems, or even faster technologies for
providing access. Service providers would love to oblige, but
there are problems in putting the faster technology into place
and managing it afterwards.
If the above challenges are met, then ISPs can
benefit in terms of voice network resources, new data services
revenues, and single data network equipment. These will make the
maintenance easy, enhance market image, and help to focus on core
businesses and on the end customer. However, achieving these
challenges is not an easy task and will not be possible by one
ISP, i.e. VSNL.
There are many steps that need to be taken by
the government and the ISPs, themselves, in order to see that
Internet succeeds in India. While policy related issues are to be
decided by the government and the regulator in consultation with
the industry, ISPs can focus their activities on better
infrastructure, innovative service offerings, and aggressive
marketing. While the latter two will depend upon geographic
regions and the size of an ISP, here is a brief outline of what
to take care of as far as infrastructure is concerned.
The following infrastructure
needs would have to be addressed:
- More Internet connections would mean more
number of computers. But the computer prices are still
high. To bring down the computer prices, government must
remove the duties and it may be fully depreciated by one
to two-year period.
- The telecom infrastructure must be
designed for data network applications which could
support high-speed services. This infrastructure must be
able to provide 64 kbps, nx64 kbps, ISDN, 2 Mbps, and
high data rate connections to the end user. For example,
the data network could be based on ATM/Frame Relay.
- To have smooth traffic flow from one point
to other, it is suggested that number of backbones be
increased and these backbones shall support high speed.
For example, ATM over SDH backbone.
- ISPs should be free to borrow the backbone
from GSM and basic service providers or from DoT at
Access Network And
access network infrastructure is designed for voice applications
but not for data/Internet. Therefore, the access infrastructure
must be designed by the equipment suppliers for high-speed data
services. This could be achieved by using more fibre in access
network and or cable TV network could be utilized. Similarly,
from equipment point of ISDN facility, 2 Mb or high data rate
leased lines and ATM switches or multiplexers with routers be
used in the access.
- ISPs must be allowed to have their own
access gateway to have international data link connection
from MCI, BT, or any other information connection
- This infrastructure must guarantee the
quality services. The quality of service, high speed, and
easy connection to end user will be the key
differentiator for the private ISPs.
The new infrastructure and
design should have optimized the number of nodes in data network
and these nodes must be connected on suitable network management
system. Only one network management system per network, at high
level is recommended. The existing VSNL network management is
very complex because of many technologies and many number of
nodes in the network. Better network management system means
better quality of service to end customer and easy life for ISP.
The present infrastructure is not at all
suitable for Internet services offering. The government must
encourage more and more ISPs to set up new data networks and
provide quality and speedy Internet services.
As for the prospective ISPs, though there has
been slight delay in the whole process, they should start
thinking about the most crucial part of their business, the
- ISPs must be allowed to have their own
- More Internet connections would mean more