RailTel Plans To Connect 150 Cities In Fiscal 2004

New Delhi: | Updated: Feb 27 2003, 05:30am hrs
RailTel Corporation of India, a subsidiary of the Indian Railways floated for its telecom network infrastructure rollout, is targeting to connect 150 cities and 1,500 stations on its optic fibre network during the financial year 2003-04.

RailTel also plans to provide Internet kiosks at the New Delhi railway station as a pilot project. It also plans to offer Internet service on one of the selected trains during the next financial year. The project, once tested successfully, will be rolled out to other major cities and trains.

Union railway minister Nitish Kumar in his Railway Budget speech in Parliament on Wednesday, said that RailTel has earned Rs 5.22 crore by leasing of bandwidth and other telecom infrastructure and the organisation expects to earn Rs 12.5 crore during the current year.

However, experts feel that Railways could have earned millions by floating RailTel as a joint venture with private sector players and could have invested the money in expanding and upgrading the infrastructure.

Xansa India chairman Saurabh Srivastava, who was also a part of the Rakesh Mohan committee on Railways, told eFE that the committee had recommended that the private companies should be invited to become partners in the project.

Railways needed to take advantage of its widespread presence across the country. Many companies including multinationals would have come forward and invested money in the project, he said.

The decision to form a corporation for creating an optic fibre cable (OFC) network for the Indian Railways was taken in Railway Budget 2000-01. The proposed corporation was estimated to earn Rs 500 crore in 2000-01.

Later, it was proposed that RailTel will not be purely a railway enterprise and the other telecom public sector companies like Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Ltd, RITES Ltd and Ircon International were considered as partners.