Sam Pitroda, Rajiv Gandhi's friend who tried to foster a rural telephony revolution in the eighties and is currently the chairman of the National Knowledge Commission, is piloting an all-India mobile network in collaboration with a Chinese company.
A new company, Vavasi Telegence Pvt Ltd, which lists Pitroda as the chief executive officer, has planned this foray through a subsidiary called Next Generation Telecommunications Pvt Ltd.
It aims at installing 100 million lines, amounting to a market share of 15 per cent, by 2012. The network will offer fixed and mobile services and data-driven applications.
The Indian project is part of an ambitious first phase that seeks to develop 29 international markets including China.
Pitroda, who headed the Centre for Development of Telematics, the government's rural telephony venture, told Business Standard from the US last week that he was only advising Vavasi.
"I advise many people and this is one of those. It has nothing to do with my Knowledge Commission work," he added. The Knowledge Commission is a body to advise the government on education and governance issues.
The company plans to offer services using next generation technology in the 400 MHz and 1800 MHz band. It will have to apply for a unified access service licence from the Department of Telecommunication and get the spectrum to run the service.
Given the spectrum crunch, it is not clear when the company will get a licence. India is the world's second-fastest growing telecom market and several companies, including Himachal Futuristic, have applied for mobile licences.
Vavasi has said that its plans are supported by M V Pitke, founder-director of C-DoT, T Chandrasekaran, a well-known technocrat associated with C-DoT, and MACIL, a telecom equipment company based in Bangalore. P S Ramesh, founder and managing director of MACIL, is currently the president of the Telecom Equipment Manufacturers' Association of India.
However, the key strategic partners are Guanghan Xu, chief scientist of Beijing Xingwei Telecom Technology Inc and Wei Chen, co-founder of the company.
The latter was part of the team that developed Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access, the first wireless communication platform developed in China and widely used in rural areas.
Vavasi intends to rely on the low-cost promise of Chinese technology and has said that it will set up a manufacturing base in India.