History of Innovations since 1998
The concept of ETH was conceived while formulating the DTH policy and DTH project for India, by the Group Chairman C. Sivasankaran (Siva). Siva believed that the DTH would be the right technology for a vast subcontinent like India to deliver not only entertainment but also education and other services to the huge population of 1 billion people. DTH would be the right medium to deliver several educational channels and accordingly the project was designed. At that time the major challenge was to bring down the price of set top box from the then 600 – 800 dollars to 100 – 150 dollars. This was a major challenge of innovating the next generation set top box and also to architect the delivery platform. ETH Research Laboratory was launched as a part of ETH Limited, that was created for launching DTH services in India. The leadership of ETH Research Lab was entrusted with Dr. Vijay Bhatkar, who became its first Chairman. The ETH Research Lab was created in Pune in 1998. It was first located in the campus of S.M. Joshi School on Solapur Road in Pune. The first task ETHRL got engaged into was to architect the set top box and develop the software systems for the DTH project covering Subscriber Management System (SMS) and later the Conditional Access System (CAS). It was also decided that the mission of ETH Limited would be to bring education to 200 million aspiring learners of India transcending the barriers of geographic and economic levels and languages that the DTH platform would easily lend to. The major task was to create educational content for various channels covering primary education, secondary education, higher secondary education and tertiary education. This was to be done for lots of schools, colleges and universities of India. However, creating the policy framework and getting it approved was a major challenge, as the DTH was being seen as a great threat to the India’s ancient culture, and unless regulations are in place DTH could not be launched.
As the approval of DTH and regulatory policy was taking time, Dr. Bhatkar who was a member of the IT Task Force constituted by the Prime Minister in 1998, was pushing for the privatization of Internet services in India. The policy framework for liberalization of Internet services was accepted by the Government of India, and then it was decided that ETH Limited should launch Internet services to begin with until the DTH policy gets in force. Accordingly the first operation of ETH Research Lab was to launch dialup Internet services which began with the city of Pune and the formal launch of the services was done on the ‘Gudi Padwa’ day, the new year day of Maharashtra, on 18th March 1999. It was decided to celebrate this day as the foundation day of ETH Research Lab.ETH introduced its Internet services in the city of Pune with dialup offerings under the brand eth.net which became very popular in a very short time and it redefined the entire Internet industry due to its innovative offerings and very affordable pricing. The service was extended to entire India in a very short time. ETHRL then focused on developing software solutions involving operational support system including the associated network management and billing systems. After successfully launching the dialup services it was decided to pioneer broadband Internet in India using DSL technology. The name Dishnet was changed to DishnetDSL, to highlight the underlying technology. However the incumbent telecom operator at that time was not ready for the concept of collocation.
Seeing this, it was decided to create its own Metropolitan Area Network using DSLAMS and cables fanning out in different parts of the cities with DSLAMS connected by fiber optic network. This was an innovative way of launching DSL services anywhere in the world. In order to support the infrastructure creation, network management and operating the services, ETHRL got engaged in developing various software systems required for deployment. The DSL based broadband internet services were implemented and deployed in different cities across India. It was then decided to transfer the DSL business to VSNL, which was acquired by Tata. Dishnet Wireless Limited (DWL) was then formed to launch wireless broadband using Wi-Fi and Wi-Max technologies. ETHRL got engaged in developing end-to-end Operation Support Systems for these services and its solutions became the software backbone for DWL’s operations. DWL was merged into Aircel, the cellular group company in 2006 and was taken over by Maxis, Malaysia.
All along Education remained the core mission and a corporate social responsibility. In the process ETHRL developed offerings for schools, colleges, universities, students and parents, in the form of campus management solutions, portals and content.