January 01, 1999

Sprint RPG's new venture

Three years ago while the critics speculated economic viability of setting up an electronic network in India, Sprint RPG was among the first few who took the bold step of setting and started building a countrywide X.25 Electronic network. Today after more than three years of hard work and perseverance, Sprint RPG is not only the market leader in the corporate segment but also showed that such a business is economically viable for Sprint RPG India Ltd. As 80% of the ISPs around the world are loosing money across the world, there are only a few who really believe that being a Internet Service Provider is a viable business. Sprint RPG’s experience in setting up a successful electronic network in India is one of the key reasons why we believe we can do big business out of being an ISP in India. VSNL currently is the only ISP in the Indian segment catering to the common public and corporate market. ERNET and NIC are among the others who also have a good but focused user base. ERNET or Educational and Research network is a segment of DOE (Department of Electronics) which has been operating since a long time before VSNL came into the picture. It provides Internet access to Educational and Research institutions like the IITs, Universities, BARC (Baba Atomic Research Center) and NCMRWF (National Center for medium range whether forecasting). Before the advent of VSNL into the country ERNET was running its entire India operations with bandwidths as small as 128 to 256Kbps. Though this an highly over utilized network, it did a lot to help students all over the country to know more about the Internet. Organizations like the one I worked with in 1994 at that time had dialup connectivity for 9.6 KBPS to ERNET, which was, much more than most BBS services in Delhi and proved sufficient for the non-graphics browsing and communication using UUCP and SMTP. However, NIC (National Information Center) seems to be the first one who setup a countrywide network across India. Unlike ERNET, when NIC setup its first network stations across India around 1988, it was not connected to Internet (or ARPANET as it was known at that time). The network across India was mostly to connect remote district offices for Information Exchange. It today boasts of one computer node in almost all of the districts across India. The network largely based on VSAT was put on repeated public display when it was used to collect Election results from counting stations across India during elections in the past decade. Eventually NIC did get connect itself to the Internet and today offers email access to many of its district nodes and organizations its connected to. However it was not until 1995 August that the common men knew about Internet. VSNL launched its Internet services on 15th August 1995 with many fanfare and was a day, which was awaited by many like me across the country. For the first time, the people boasted of speeds of 19.6 KBPS with graphical Interface to Internet. Though many were disappointed with the high tariff rates of the service, a few like me sighed a sigh of relief when we switched from ERNET to VSNL for our email. With the help of DOT, today people can reach Internet from more than 40 cities across India with today back end bandwidth of more than 70 MBPS. However the public reaction to the VSNL’s quality of service was not something which could be talked about. VSNL was not geared itself to support the huge Internet requirement generated as the news of Internet’s success spread across India. Today with more than 1.5 lacks VSNL accounts sold out and with more than 30 to 40 lack active Internet users around the country, the demand has far outstripped the supply. The government soon realized that it was for its own good to open up this sector to public sector. A firm decision to this effect was taken on the 6th of November 1996 when the then government formally announced that Internet would soon be open up for public Investment. After months of speculations, court room battles between TRAI and DOT, and eagerly waiting to-be service providers, it seems that DOT is finally coming out with the final draft of the Policies which will formally put Sprint RPG on the track of becoming an ISP in the coming few months. Today as we continue speculating when DOT would publish its long awaited license policies, Sprint RPG has been quietly gearing up to start its services in India.

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