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Saturday, 15 July, 2000, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Telecoms boost for India
man with computer
Measures designed to encourage internet use
The Indian Government has announced measures aimed at improving domestic long-distance telephone services and encouraging the use of the internet.

The long-distance set-up will be deregulated by 15 August and private operators will be allowed to take part.

The details were given by the prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, at India's first ever national conference on information technology, attended by chief ministers from across the country.

He called for action by India's states to ensure that many more telephones reach their villages and that better use is made of information technology for administration, agriculture and industry.

Knowledge economy

The moves are part of the government's drive to promote India as a global player in the knowledge-based economy.

But Delhi is concerned about the digital divide between states and it wants to devise a common programme to ensure the equal participation of all of them.

Under the new scheme announced by the prime minister, private operators would pay the government a fixed fee, as well as handing over a share of revenue.

The decision is expected to improve long-distance telephone services in India and make them much cheaper.

Mr Vajpayee said that his government was also keen to allow private internet service providers to set up anywhere in India, in collaboration with international undersea bandwidth carriers.

Boost internet use

At the moment, the state-run Videsh Sanchar Nigam controls access to global fibre optic pipes and overseas telecommunication links and private Internet service providers need government approval to set up international gateways.

Mr Vajpayee said bandwidth constraints had hampered the growth of internet services in the country.

According to recent projections by India's software industry, internet bandwidth is expected to double by the end of the year from its current level of five gigabits per second. It is expected to soar to 300 gigabits per second by 2005.

India has one billion people, but it less than one million people are on the internet.

This is blamed on the low number of telephones in the country. There are about 2.6 phones for every 100 people, compared with a world average of about 15 phones for every 100 people.

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