Archive for June, 2019


False Credit to Rajiv and Pitroda

In last Chapter we have seen that how the performance of Ahmedabad Telephone District was improved. But this was not applicable to all the other cities. Manual Exchanges were working at most of the towns and big villages. These telephone exchanges have problems of late answering by operators, rude behavior over of operators and abnormal delay in putting through the trunk calls, over and above the problems of shortage of spare parts.

In very few big villages, 50 Lines MAX III were working. A MAX III is a small 50 line auto exchange (Step by step, Line Finder Type). The capacity can be increased by adding one more 50 line unit.

The problem of shortage of telephone instruments, shortage of lines and wire, shortage of underground cables, shortage of their accessories … was prevailing from the very beginning.

It was planned to replace all the CB Manual Exchanges, by MAX II (Line Finder Type) in 1967. But preparing projects, justifying project … the speed was like a snail. It was all horrible.

Everybody cannot be like T. H. Chaudhary. But in 1971-72 Bahuguna formed a committee as to how to improve telecommunication services. The name of the committee was Sarin Committee. The committee arranged to take observation through test calls everywhere.


As usual a circular was sent to all the Heads of the Circles, to forward their suggestions.

We will talk about Telephone Exchange systems only.

  1. H. Chaudhary called a meeting of all the Engineers of the Ahmedabad Telephone District.

It must be noted that in general, no government servant knows anything other than the section where he works. The Government servant keep himself busy in day to day problems, and/or sometimes how to make money wherever there is a scope.


We, the normal engineers were capable to think of two options.

(1) Go for Strowger system,

i.e. step by step switching by using Electromagnetic mechanical system.


(2) Go for Cross Bar system (which is a common control system).

.A 5000/6000 line Strowger Exchange needs a very big Switch Room. Say 30’x40’ with a height above 16’.

.Two to three 5000+ Ampere Hour 50V DC, Chargeable Battery sets. A battery set, is consisting 24 Lead Acid type secondary cells connected in series to make it to 50V. The telephone exchanges work on 50Volts DC. Each cell has 2.15 Volts in fully charged condition.

.Two to three AC to DC conversion Motor Generator sets to trickle Charge the battery on float, and to charge batteries fully at regular interval under specified routine maintenance.

.A very big Air Conditioning plant for a very big switch room.

The standard time to complete the installation was 1 ½ to 2 years.

As for Crossbar telephone exchanges:

.The room size is to be the same as that of Strowger Telephone Exchange, but capacity can be doubled in the same size. Installation would take one and a half year.

.Power consumption would also be the comparable to that of the Strowger Telephone Exchange.

What did happen in the conference?

In the aforesaid conference we were discussing simply Cross-bar versus Strowger. But to adopt strowger system for National and International Dialing was not practicable. This was because every stage was prone to fail a call. Cross bar system was preferable.

There existed other generation systems too in the world. But it is a matter of research, as to why the attention was not drawn to the ministry of telegraphs (communication) about its availability.

The reason could be as under:

STORY OF Electronic Exchange (Analog) in New Delhi

There was an Electronic Exchange (Analog type) in New Delhi at the Connaught place. A stand–by MAX-II type exchange was provided with the electronic telephone exchange. This is because the electronic exchange was failing very frequently. There were change-over switches at the MDF. MDF is the Main Distribution Frame. It has two sides. One is named as Line Side. Other is named as Equipment Side. In a subscriber’s premise two wires runs from subscriber’s instrument, through house wiring to overhead wires to Distribution Box. Then it runs through under ground distribution cable upto Pillar, then runs through underground secondary cable to Cabinet, then through primary underground cable to the terminal point on line side of MDF. Then the subsciber’s 2wire line is taken to equipment side through jumper wires. Then through switch board cables it is taken to subscriber’s line circuit.

Now here in Connaught Place electronic telephone exchange whenever the electronic exchange goes out of order, the technicians would manually change over the subscribers’ lines from electronic exchange to MAX-II type exchange.

Can we not go for a developed imported telephone switching system?

Answer was probably No.

The probable reason was, “what would be the fate of our products?” Indian Telephone Industries was manufacturing Telephone systems. Pentaconta (?) was its Crossbar manufacture. It was not able to meet the demand. Decade old waiting list was existing. This caused Government to tempt to introduce a lot of categories in the waiting list to meet with the urgent demands. This was turned into  increase of corruption. It is a long story. We will not discuss it.

There was a change in Telecom policy in 1977:

Janata Party Government sworn-in. George Fernandez was the Communication Minister. He re-initiated the reforms in telecommunication which were previously initiated by Bahuguna..

What was the policy of Indira Government?

Indira Government had ordered cross bar exchanges, manufactured by Belgium.  Whereas in the developed and developing nations, crossbar exchanges were getting scrapped, and India was importing crossbar exchanges. It was not only Belgium, but we had imported C-400 and NEC (NEC is also a c-400 type telephone system a further developed Crossbar exchange) from Japan, whereas Japan itself was crapping its crossbar exchanges.

Fernandez did not canceled the orders placed by Indira Government. But he initiated Global Tender for Digital Electronic Telephone Exchange with transfer of technology.

We must understand that the developed countries are not as white as a day. We have to be very careful while framing the specifications. There was a vast variation in the rate per line quoted by the countries.

India has a unique culture on “calling rate” and a “call duration”.

Janata Party Government was collapsed under the greed of power of Chaudhary Charan Singh.

Indira Gandhi taken over the rein. She finalized the tender in favor of France, with a transfer of technology. This was happened somewhere in 1980-81. Orders were placed.

It was E10B type Telephone Exchange?

It is working on the SPC system. i.e. Stored Programmed Control. Everything through Printed Card Boards. Everything is made of IC (Integrated Circuits) .

E10B where E stands for Electronic, 10 is a system and B is the version.

What is special in E10B?

It was a digital Electronic Exchange system. Time multiplexing  time sharing.

One Time Frame is made of 120 millisecond. 32 subscribers accommodated in each “time frame”. 16 bit voice segment to carry the intelligence of a subscriber’s sound. The basic time was nearly 3 nanoseconds. This was considered one of the moderately advanced systems at that time.

The deal was a (semi) Government to Government deal. The Government to Government deals are generally better because in such cases even if the rates are higher, the diplomacy can be utilized in relation between the two governments when needed.

The standard time for a 10000 line E10BTelephone Exchange installation, was 11 months.

The space needed is 25’x25’ with a normal height.

The same space can accommodate upto 30000 lines.

The power consumption was, 300Ampere to a maximum.

The first E10B exchange was to be installed by a French Team in Worli (Bombay) . Since this was a first digital type telephone exchange, the French team took nearly 15 months to complete the physical installation and clear from Acceptance Testing for commissioning.

Department of Telecommunication had sent four teams consisting 12 engineers in each team for training in France in the beginning of 1983. Two teams for installation and two teams for maintenance of E10B telephone exchanges.

04 A group photo of Team 1 & 2 of E10B installation

Theoretical training was imparted in Paris in CCIT. And practical training was imparted in the CIT Alcatel at Treguier (a village near Lannion) where there was a factory manufacturing E10 Telephone Exchanges. All this was done in 1983.

04 A group photo of Team 1 & 2 of E10B installation


The receipt of the material was commenced in 1982 and the installation was commenced by the French Team in the beginning of 1983 or even earlier.

At this moment of time, there was neither Rajiv Gandhi nor Pitroda, on any horizon of India.06 Class room of Team 2


By the time the French team completed the First Digital E10B Telephone exchange at Bombay viz. Worli-III in 1983-84, our Indian Engineers had already commenced the installation of other E10B Exchanges at other places e.g. Ahmedabad (Railwaypura), Delhi, Madras and Calcutta.

Soon after the completion of the installation and the acceptance testing (A/T), the installation of E10B telephone exchanges started in other places of Bombay and at many other big cities. e.g. Andheri West, Marol, Ghatkopar, Cooperage … Pune

03 A working table of an engineer02 Operation and Maintenance Room (O & M)


Our Engineers used to complete the installation of E10B Telephone Exchanges even within 6 months against the French Scheduled time of 11 months.

01 our total local team for Khar-III E10B installation.


Pitroda came on the screen of telecom, when Rajiv Gandhi took the rein. The contribution of Pitroda is controversial and minor. He had designed C-DOT Telephone Exchange system which was a small telephone exchange system of 128 lines to 512 lines, capable to work with Main Telephone Exchange as a Satellite telephone exchange. A lot mini-transmission towers were installed in villages. There is a rumor that many of the towers were ghost towers. Nobody knows how many towers were installed and commissioned and how many towers physically existed and or worked till 1998.

The seeds of telecom revolution were buried by Bahuguna by planning and put to work a lot Regional Telecom Training Centers in nearly every Circle, to step up the knowledge of Engineers. The Janata Party government grew the tree by providing infrastructure viz. “Advance Level Telecom Center Gaziabad in 1977-78, and floating Global Tender for digital Electronic Telephone exchange system. It had also relaxed restrictions on productions. Many power plant factories came up like Keltron, Maltron, Uptron … for manufacturing static rectifiers to replace motor-generator sets.   

The Great decision was taken by Narasinha Rao to introduce privatization in providing telecom services.

Actually DoT could have defeated private service providers because the DoT had a very good skilled man-power and infrastructure. But top officers were either lazy or/and corrupted or/and had no foresight or/and no wisdom or/and no determination. Actually all these qualities they are supposed to have by virtue of their posting. They are absorbed after competitive selection and training before they are posted in the field. They are supposed to be monitored for these qualities.

In short, the story of giving credit to Rajiv Gandhi and Sam Pitroda for the revolution in telecommunication is a false story.

Shirish M. Dave

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