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RCom plans to offer broadband in Bhutan

Rajesh S Kurup  |  Mumbai 

In increasing instances of Indian companies looking at offering services beyond the country's shore, private major Reliance Communications (RCom) is planning to offer Internet services in Bhutan.
The company is also in advanced stages of negotiations to rope in the kingdom's largest service provider, Bhutan Telecom, as partner.
According to industry analysts, the move is of significant importance as companies were looking at extending their services outside the country to increase revenues.
For example, Tata group company VSNL has set up operations in Sri Lanka, Nepal and the US, and Bharti Airtel and MTNL in Sri Lanka. MTNL was also looking at starting services from Kenya.
The Anil Ambani Group company is looking at offering enterprise and retail broadband services in the landlocked nation, which is connected to the outside world through satellites and copper wires (normal telecom cables) only.
RCom is looking at offering bandwidth over its Flag Global Network, a high-end optical fibre connectivity spanning across the globe, according to sources close to the development.
The company is in advanced stages of negotiations to rope in the country's incumbent operator Bhutan Telecom as partner for the project. Bhutan has dismally low telecom penetration with around 32,000 fixed lines, over 82,000 mobile phones and 30,000 low speed Internet lines.
Bhutan has a total population of around 23 lakh and is looking at promoting employment opportunities by making the country a destination for Information Technology-enabled Services (ITeS) and BPO services.
RCom and Bhutan Telecom are expected to sign a deal within a week's time, under which the latter will rollout broadband services in five out of the 20 districts in the country. The 5 districts include Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Paro, Wangdue Trongsa and Kanglung, and comprising close to 50 per cent of the country's population.
The companies are also looking at migrating the existing low-bandwidth users to broadband and are aiming at garnering 1,00,000 broadband users in first year of launch. This includes 1,000 enterprises users in the country.
The companies would also look at covering the rest of the districts in the country, but in a phased manner.
When contacted an RCom spokesperson declined to comment. He, however added, "RCom has one of most extensive fully IP-enabled optic infrastructure spread over 1,65,000 km across the globe."
Rcom is expected to carry the traffic to Bhutan from its Falcon landing station in Mumbai from which it would be routed to across the globe including the Internet Exchange at London.

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First Published: Fri, January 25 2008. 00:00 IST