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BSNL to bundle Net with basic services

G. Rambabu

NEW DELHI, Dec. 29

IN an ambitious move to expand its Internet footprint and provide a whole range of new value-added services to its subscribers, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has set the ball rolling on its National Internet Backbone Phase II (NIB-II) project across the country.

According to official sources, even while having over three lakh Internet customers on the strength of its Phase I project, the company hopes to mop up an additional 11 lakh customers in Phase II over the next two years by bundling these services with its basic telecom services.

Its present Internet network (NIB-I) consists of about 400 nodes covering most of the district headquarters, with the service platform designed to serve up to 6.5 lakh customers. Phase II of the project is expected to be commissioned by end-June 2003, after the company reaches this threshold.

"The key objectives of NIB - II are to address convergent IP Network infrastructure, connectivity services and content services. It envisages the setting up of IP Network infrastructure covering 71 cities, remote access gateway platform, messaging and storage platform and provisioning, billing and customer care and enterprise management system," the sources said.

They noted that depending on the response to Phase II, the company also hoped to roll out Phase III of the project at a later date to target over 20 lakh additional subscribers. So by the end of three years, BSNL should have around 45 lakh Internet subscribers. Its current basic telecom subscriber base is 40 lakh.

In this context they pointed out that the company had just issued a global tender for the project, which envisages integration with the existing infrastructure and services and would have scope for future expansion.

As per the document inviting expressions of interest, the NIB-II project shall necessarily comprise technology solutions from different product manufacturers. It is mandatory for the bidders to offer systems working in open standards environment and to provide necessary open interfaces and solutions to enable quick rollout of new revenue generating services.

Post-commissioning of the network, operation, maintenance and service rollout of the supplied network and its constituent solutions would have to be provided by each of the successful bidders for at least six months in association with BSNL staff.

A two-stage process is to be adopted. Stage I has just been announced, wherein EoIs have been invited by January 10. A short-list will then be made of the panel of bidders who meet the eligibility requirements set against each project. Stage II will then be set in motion, inviting technical and financial bids from short-listed bidders for each of the projects. Technically-compliant bids will be shortlisted, followed by opening of the financial bids of the technically-compliant parties and awarding the contract to successful bidders.

Once completed, the NIB-II project should hopefully help BSNL corner the largest share of the Internet market, as well as ward off competition from the private telecom operators who are breathing down its neck, the sources said.

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