BSNL Test-routes Outgoing ILD Calls Via Bharti, Data Access

New Delhi: | Updated: Sep 26 2002, 05:30am hrs
Even as the October 1 deadline for the Tata-owned Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) to finalise an interconnect agreement with the government companies Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) stands extended, BSNL seems to be readying itself for a possible snapping, or at least dilution, of links with VSNL. The company has started routing outgoing international call traffic through VSNL competitors, Bharti Telesonic and Data Access, though it is on a trial basis.

Confirming this to eFE, BSNL chairman and managing director Prithipal Singh said: Outgoing traffic has been routed through them. It is a trial. I do not know the volumes that have been routed.

Officials who have been associated with the test-routing said that the intent was to check the performance of the competing networks. The quality of service was very good. In fact, it may have been better than that of VSNL, a senior BSNL official said.

VSNL, the erstwhile monopoly carrier of international long distance (ILD) traffic in which the government retains a 26 per cent stake, has been designated as the preferred carrier for the outgoing international traffic of the government companies until 2004. This is, however, subject to the proviso that it matches the best revenue-share rates on offer in the market. The company has, however, expressed its inability to match these rates saying that it would be lurched into a financial crises, if it does so. Should it not match these rates, it would still be in a crises as the government is threatening to pull the plug on the company and route all traffic through its competitors.

One of the issues of concern is whether Bharti and Data Access have the capacity to manage all of the countrys outbound ILD traffic, though both the companies claim to be in a position to do so. Industry officials, however, pointed out that augmentation of traffic capacities in the ILD market is very easy, and not very time-consuming.

The average tariff for an outgoing international call is Rs 21 per minute. Bharti and Data access keep about Rs 9 from an outgoing call on their network while BSNL gets Rs 12.