BSNL set to go global, to float BSNL Videsh

India’s largest telecoms company – BSNL – is set to go global. It is learnt that the government is clearing the decks for PSU to foray into global markets by floating an international subsidiary called BSNL Videsh. According to sources, in the first phase, BSNL Videsh will oversee the PSU’s international long distance (ILD) operations.

Sources also added that the government wanted this PSU subsidiary to be modelled on the likes of Tatas-owned Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) and be a major player in the international undersea cable space. (The government had privatised VSNL in February 2002 – the Tatas now hold a controlling stake in the international long distance player while the government still owns 26% in the company.)

Though BSNL has an ILD licence it currently depends on private undersea operators to carry most of its traffic. BSNL Videsh is likely to be entrusted with the task of negotiating termination and carriage tariffs with international submarine cable operators for carrying voice and data, sources added.

BSNL (jointly with MTNL) will soon enter the global under sea cable space – both PSUs are currently undertaking feasibility and technical studies for building a Rs 1,800 crore submarine cable links connecting India to South Asia and West Asia, which they later plans to expand to the United States and Europe, respectively.

The two PSUs have also initiated talks with carriers and countries in Asia for landing station rights for the submarine cable project. Last year, BSNL had launched a small undersea link connecting Tamil Nadu in India to Sri Lanka.

BSNL in collaboration with Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd (TCIL) is also in the process of laying fibre optic cable across Myanmar (Burma), which is the first step towards setting up a land link between India and South Asia, which will ultimately pass through Kuala Lampur and terminate in Singapore. The landlink is set to complement and act as a backup to BSNL and MTNL’s upcoming undersea link to Singapore.

Sources also did not rule out the possibility of BSNL Videsh being permitted to bid and launch telecom services abroad in future. The government has already allowed MTNL to foray overseas.