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The Story Of Indian Telecom


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This is the story of Indian telecom, which transformed itself from pure socialist agenda to national agenda.

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The Story Of Indian Telecom

  1. 1. The story of Indian Telecom By Khader B Syed July 16, 2009 If you all remember, telecom was part of the big family called - P & T (Post and Telegraph) until late 75 or 77. After that 2 were bifurcated and made into 2 separate departments. Here I should laud Postal department for creating such a wide spread NW that I can send my letters to each and every nook and corner of the Country. This was due to some visionary policies set forward by the first communications minister Late Shri Jagjivan Ram. He gave a slogan to P&T department that, a post office will come up wherever a "Murga Baang Dega" (Rooster's Call in Morning). The result was that we see post office in most interior places also. They also recognize that this is a social service and don't expect profits out of their operations. Now moving to Telecom, up until, Sam Pitroda appeared on the screen, It was a 100% government owned operation from planning to producing telephone equipment. One would wait for years for a telephone line. Most exchanges were either mechanical or semi-electronic. When Rajiv Gandhi brought in Sam Pitroda (a Telecom Expert) to start the Center for development of Telematics (C-DOT), the things started changing. C-DOT took up the design and development of equipment for electronic telephone exchanges. It was first attempt to make something big that is brand INDIA from start to finish. From design to production, all INDIAN. Sam adopted a bottom-up approach. He started with development of exchanges for rural areas first with 256 lines. These were called RAX - Rural Auto Exchanges. The approach here was C-DOT would make the proto type, once approved for field deployment, private companies were given licensed to manufacture these and supply to DOT (Department of Telecom). In those days DOT was the Planner and operator, ITI was the manufacturing wing. DOT was happy with C- DOT's approach because it was able to replace the old mechanical equipment with newer and expandable equipment at faster pace than ITI can supply. This was also the start of turf war between ITI and C-DOT. With the sound success of RAX, C-DOT came out with Main Area Exchange (MAX) line of equipment supporting up to 40 thousand lines. For models supporting 10 thousand they were pretty successful in this line of equipment also. This lead to massive replacement of exchanges in small towns and districts. This also helped DOT to expand its STD facility to all the big towns and cities. Earlier it was restricted to 4 Metros. Once the MAX started making debut in towns and cities, the STD facility also expanded rapidly. C-DOT started slipping its delivery schedules for larger exchange designs with 40 thousand lines. It nearly slipped 2 years for its first 40 thousand line exchange. This was also the period of turbulence for Sam Pitroda and his political boss late Rajiv Gandhi. Bofor’s scandal was talk of the country, ITI bureaucrats in glove with private international telephone equipment manufacturer’s had also started making wars on C-DOT. Our political class also felled for ITI’s management games and with the exit of Rajiv Gandhi from government, Sam also had to leave C-DOT, not before delivering the first 40,000 line electronic exchange that was commissioned at Bangalore’s Ulsoor exchange. Until, 1997, this piece of
  2. 2. technological Excellency was such that it surpassed all the expectations and least outages. Once again C- DOT demonstrated that, Indian skill set put to best use can compete with anybody on a level playing field. C-DOT still exists, but not sure whether it still involved in development and design of telematics. Here it is worth noting that C-DOT took just 3 or more to achieve where telecom giants like AT&T, Alcatel etc took more than 20 years to develop electronic exchanges. Indian telecom played a important role in providing the IT & Software industry in its growth and expansion by supporting with its telecom needs. When the SW industry came into surface around 1995, Indian telecom had already had the technology which provided for basic telephony services as well as DATA services that hooked the SW industry with their peers all around the world. Imagine the SW industry without Indian Telecom. Seldom have we acknowledged the forgotten heroes of Indian Telecom. Also hats off to the administrative decision to expand the telecom services with mobile telephony by having the private players. Surely this was the master stroke that unshackled the Indian telecom with an unique feature. Indian Telecom did not privatize as many of the capitalist supporter would want to paint it. But without losing any of the government’s hold and share, it expanded, allowed private players as competitors and also offered the Indian public the real services for their money. Also one should make a note that, Indian Telecom had always posted profits and never heard of any government support for its expansions and development in the union budgets.