The Economic Times, SINGAPORE, April 9, 2002 - The first phase of the $650-million Singapore-India undersea submarine cable network - Network i2i - has been completed, thus ending VSNL's monopoly. This would mark the fall of last monopoly in international long distance telephony in India and is widely expected to set ILD prices tumbling.

A joint venture of Bharti and SingTel, the first private cables to link India and Singapore is also claimed to be the world's largest. Both the companies have also signed an MoU to explore new routes like extending the network to middle East.

The inaugural call was made by Indian Prime Minister Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee on an official visit to Singapore and Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.

"The network will start carrying commercial traffic within this month, once we get the necessary permission,'' says Sunil Mittal, chairman and group managing director of Bharti Enterprises. Lee Hsien Yang, president and CEO of SingTel, says, "The i2i cable network is a product of SingTel's successful collaboration with Bharti..." "The cable is linked to SingTel's extensive network in the Asia Pacific and will enhance telecommunications connectivity between the Indian sub-continent and East Asia."

The first phase would link Chennai-Bangalore-Mumbai, Chennai-Hyderabad-Mumbai and Mumbai-Delhi. The Singapore-Chennai leg of the project would cost $250 million while the second phase -- Singapore-Mumbai -- would cost another $400 million.

i2i cable network would have gateways in Bangalore, Bhopal, Calcutta, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai that would allow customers to set up POPs (point of presence) in these cities connected via Bharti's domestic links.

Utilising the latest dense wavelength division multiplexing technology, the 8.4-terabits cable system can support 130 million Internet dial-up connections simultaneously.

As part of the MOU, SingTel and Bharti will study the possible enhancement of the i2i cable network to other parts of Asia, including the Middle East and Europe. This can be achieved either through new infrastructure or acquisition of capacity on other cable systems. The bandwidth is expected to benefit the software industry, call centres, dotcom companies and Inter Protocol-based industries for applications such as web hosting as well as provide world-class infor-communications services.

Network i2I is a 50:50 joint venture between Bharti and SingTel to set up a submarine optical fibre cable network. The self-healing 10,800-km ring network, i2i cable network will link Singapore, Chennai and Mumbai.

Source: The Economic Times