Railtel still looking for last mile partner

New Delhi, Aug 2 | Updated: Aug 3 2005, 05:30am hrs
Railtel Corporation of India (RCI) has not yet finalised a joint venture (JV) partner for providing last mile connectivity to customers under its bandwidth business.

In April this year, RCI had invited bids, seeking an alliance with a private player for providing last mile services. The partner was to be identified by early May, however the process seems to have got delayed reportedly due to poor response.

When asked about the JV proposal, RCI officials said that they have received the bids, which are currently being evaluated. They refused to divulge the identity of the companies that have placed bids for the project. Sources say that inadequate response from telecom companies has led to the delay.

The project is crucial for the Railways, as RCI officials have gone on record saying that providing last mile connectivity, under the bandwidth business, has always been a problem area for them.

Apart from this, Railtel had also identified 82 railway stations from all over the country, out which, 51 were to be chosen for setting up cyber cafes. However after more than three months, RCI is yet to shortlist the stations. Currently only New Delhi railway station has a cyber cafe, which is leased out to a private company.

While the Railways provides the physical infrastructure, the company looks after its operation and management.

The profit sharing is done on 25:75 basis in favour of the private company. The same system would be applicable for the rest of prospective cafes. However, with the stations yet to be finalised, sources say that this project may also get delayed. Setting up of cyber cafes, RCI officials had said, is part of a brand building exercise for Railways, and is not a revenue earning activity, but the delay in both the projects, could be bad publicity for the ministry.