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BSNL to focus on bridging the digital divide

M. Dinesh Varma

Official unveils growth strategy



S.D. Saxena

CHENNAI: The growth strategy of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) will balance low-tariff connectivity for the rural poor against newer telecom products for high-value clientele, BSNL’s Director (Finance) S. D. Saxena said on Thursday.

A major thrust area for the BSNL is bridging the digital divide by equipping low-income people in rural areas with connectivity that was affordable, Mr. Saxena told The Hindu, on the sidelines of a review meeting with top telecom of ficials from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. In fact, a tangible quality of improving rural connectivity was the impetus it gave to economic growth.

“Usage patterns show that the rural population is generally a constructive user of the phone (for economic betterment) compared to the typical urban counterpart,” said Mr. Saxena.

Alongside, the BSNL will woo the corporate class with a range of high-end telecom products and attractive schemes. One of the many services directed at this segment was the free-of-cost installation of PABX facility in corporate offices on the basis of a revenue-share understanding that the BSNL had with equipment vendors.

GSM expansion

According to the BSNL official, the first phase of the much-delayed GSM expansion project would commence soon with the work being apportioned among Ericsson, Nokia and Alcatel. As the pace at which business was changing (in the telecom sector) had shrunk timelines for decision-making, the BSNL has been seeking simplification of procurement procedures without compromise on accountability, he said.

A simpler process was as important to stay in the race as in sustaining profit and turnover cycles that currently involved a gross earning of around Rs. 8,000 crore against an aggregate business volume of around Rs. 40,000 crore.

The BSNL also has around Rs. 241 crore locked up in ‘subjudice’ pending settlement of its appeal with the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal on Access Deficit Charges — the levy on private operators to offset operational costs in rural telephony. The BSNL had challenged TRAI’s decision to reduce the charge.

Nation-wide broadband scale-up would be a critical focus area as the BSNL chased a target of netting 120 million lines and a 12.5-crore customer base by 2010.

The rollout included one that facilitated purchase of railway e-tickets from PCO operators.

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