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BSNL Wireless and Broadband Efforts

Financial Times reports, the offices of Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL), India�s state-run fixed-line operator, bear all the physical hallmarks of a slow-moving public-sector monopoly.

The shabby furniture, desks in disarray, threadbare carpeting, and employees who appear to have no discernible duties, give a visitor the impression that the century-old telecoms behemoth has no intention of venturing beyond its stronghold in the fixed-line market, in which it has an 85 percent share.

The perception would be misplaced. BSNL, formed by the corporatisation of the Department of Telecom Operations in 2000, may not have the slick panache of private-sector telecom operators, such as Reliance Infocomm or Bharti Tele-ventures -- which recently received a high-profile investment from the UK-based Vodafone. But BSNL is seriously challenging them in the cellular and broadband sectors.

Realising that fixed-line growth has come to a standstill, BSNL has begun aggressively courting wireless and broadband customers. It hopes to add 60 million mobile phone lines over the next few years, and has signed up 310,000 broadband users less than a year after launching the service. This compares with Bharti�s estimated 250,000 household subscribers.

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