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Taking Stock and Looking Forward

With the year 2000 well past us, it is time for some introspection on what we in India have achieved in the last 12 months. Particularly with reference to the knowledge industries. Notwithstanding the NASDAQ crash and the dot com bust, the biggies such as Wipro and Infosys have grown bigger, creating scores of rupee millionaires, even as human resource problems continue to adversely affect the IT industry as a whole.

But the networking and telecom segments seem to have done pretty well, in spite of upheavals. The communications industry is always mired in controversies as telecoms are a highly politicalized subject in India as in the rest of the world. But yet, reforms have happened at regular intervals egged on by the interference of the prime minister's office. To name the key events--the privatization of the domestic long distance sector, the preponement of the deadline to review VSNL's overseas monopoly, the reincarnation of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) as Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), the introduction of cyber laws and subsequent recognition to digital signatures, the setting up of international gateways by private ISPs and finally, the preliminary approval to the Convergence Bill.

However, fixed line network services continue to grow at snail's pace, marred by lack of fresh investment and additional subscribers. But the recent announcement by the regulator permitting them to offer mobility using wireless in local loop technology, promises to alter the complexion of the whole scene, much to the chagrin of the cellular industry.

For the user segment, the most exciting thing to look forward to is the bandwidth bonanza. With both the government and private players laying fiber optic cables, the infrastructure scenario looks good. For all one knows, couple of years down the line, it could even lead to a bandwidth glut as there aren't enough applications to consume this bandwidth.

On the other hand, the networking market has been growing at a healthy 50 per cent plus, although it is a nascent, price-sensitive market. Companies such as Cisco and Enterasys Networks, a Cabletron-owned venture, have clocked extremely good growth cashing in on business opportunities in areas such as data centers and call centers. In fact, the exit of yet another major player 3Com from the high-end networking market has augured well for Entreaty's, catapulting it to the number one slot at least as far as the switching market goes.

With Nortel Networks clearly set to push optical networking and voice over IP solutions, and Lucent looking at wireless LAN solutions, there is much excitement in the market for these up-and-coming technologies.

Come to think of it, wireless in the enterprise is a very big opportunity for both vendors and CIOs to offer anytime connectivity to corporate customers. No wonder even big companies like Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks and Ericsson are betting on wireless solutions. Recently Cisco acquired a technology-driven California-based small company called ExiO Communications Inc, which specializes in providing wireless solutions for corporate networks based on the CDMA standard.

With the 802.11b wireless LAN standard coming up to the forefront, wireless infrastructure is getting deployed in many parts of the world. Developments in new areas such as High Performance Radio LAN called as HiperLAN and Bluetooth, of which much has already been written about in the trade press, are enabling high-speed applications on WLANs.

With plenty of cellular phones waiting to get Internet-enabled, there is a great demand for mobility in general. As the trend in the Western World indicates, hundreds of users will require connectivity between their laptops, mobile handsets, and LAN access points. WLANs hold great promise as a means to make this dream come true. Read more about WLANs in our focus feature this issue. We also encourage you to direct all your technical queries that may come up while implementing your LAN/WAN or whatever to us. Bangalore-based online support company Qsupport Technologies will provide the responses.

Happy Networking

Aparna Achar, achar@vsnl.com


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