Thursday, 13 December 2007

Broadband Recommendations

Slow growth of broadband is a serious concern. In spite of good growth potential for broadband, the slow growth requires in depth analysis of all impediments and discussions on various options to boost broadband.
After doing an indepth study TRAI has submitted the broadband recommendations to the Ministry of Information Technology and Communication. A summary of these recommendation is given below:- 

Presently most of the broadband proliferation is taking place in the urban areas. However, it is far less than the desired level. Many broadband subscribers are being added per month during last one year. To achieve the broadband policy target much higher growth rate is required. It is important to note that availability of individual PC is increasing in the metro and major districts. Hence broadband in urban areas will be driven by individual demand. 
Presently digital subscriber line (DSL) is the most preferred technology for broadband access. At the end of March 2007, out of 2.34 million broadband subscribers, 1.9 million subscribers were using this technology. Out of this BSNL & MTNL have provided only 1.45 million connections. DSL are available in urban area, which can be utilized for provisioning of broadband. Even then growth of broadband connections is very slow. This indicates that there is a scope to improve local loop utilization efficiency to provide broadband using copper loop by incumbents. Effective utilization of local loop for providing broadband services is to adopt franchisee model, which will be more effective in the current scenario. There is complete flexibility for provision of equipments by franchisee. The issues like co-location of equipments, can easily be managed by local loop owner. This should be immediately adopted to boost broadband penetration. 
* One of the main impediments for slow progress of incumbents in providing broadband connections is the shortage of Customer Premises Equipments (CPEs). Usually CPEs are provided by service providers while installing broadband connections. Though these CPEs are also available in the market, their cost is higher than what charged by the service provider. Most of the subscribers are not aware about the availability of these CPEs in the market and therefore entirely depend on the service provider for procurement of CPEs. A list of CPEs standardised by such bodies should be displayed in the public domain, so that subscribers can directly purchase these CPEs from the market. 
There are 71 million Cable TV households in India. Only 10% of this i.e. 7 million can be utilised for broadband access at present. For providing broadband over cable TV network, upgradation cost of cable TV network per line is high. The cable operators feel that cost of International Internet Bandwidth and high competition do not make a suitable business model. TRAI has taken number of steps to reduce International Internet bandwidth charges and it is hoped that with these initiatives, the cost of International Internet Bandwidth and Domestic Leased Circuits(DLC) will reduce. 
*A very important issue at this stage is whether uplink communication through telecom networks should be encouraged to facilitate Broadband services on various one way platform like DTH, one way cable network. Some telecom operators are also in the process of obtaining DTH licenses and are planning to provide Broadband over DTH. However, they may provide Broadband service to their DTH subscribers only. Fibre is a very good option for providing broadband services requiring high bandwidth. Due to high cost of leasing a Fiber, it is mainly used for high capacity bandwidth requirements. 
*RoW (Right of Way) is one very important factor which dissuades service providers to venture into creation of new infrastructure for telecom services/broadband services. Obtaining right of way clearances has proven to be a major hurdle in rolling out new infrastructure which requires laying of cables & optical fibers and thereby restricting provisioning of advanced broadband services in a time bound manner. The major problems are lack of uniformity in decision making processes of public and private right of way owners, availability of detailed GIS maps, and the need to create new ducting infrastructure to carry data cables, even in areas of recently completed civic projects. 
The penetration of wireless handsets capable to support high speed Internet is increasing day by day. It is expected that 10-20 % of present wireless internet subscribers will have 3G enabled handsets, which can easily switchover to broadband with the rollout of 3G services. Combination of WiFi in access and WiMAX in backhaul is a good option to provide broadband in urban as well as rural areas. Non-availability of spectrum for 3G and WiMAX is the major impediments for their deployments. In order to expedite the provision of broadband using these technologies there is an urgent need for allocation of spectrum for 3G and WiMAX. 
*Number of bandwidth hungry applications are increasing, which will drive subscribers to go for very high bandwidth in years to come. Therefore there is a need to take action to encourage broadband enabled buildings/dwelling units in metros and major cities. If the cost of inputs like international internet bandwidth and domestic bandwidth can be further reduced to make broadband more affordable, these subscribers can switch over to broadband. 
Creating infrastructure to provide connectivity to remote and difficult terrain will be very difficult and requires substantial cost. Satellite is a very effective media to provide broadband connectivity to such areas. DTH can also be utilized for providing broadband connectivity in rural areas. Wireless is suitable for harsh landscapes and lightly populated areas. Wireless access technologies allow for direct connections between the subscriber and the access hub without the need for wire lines 
With an aim to provide impetus to growth of broadband in rural areas, Govt. has decided to cover broadband under Universal Service Obligation fund (USOF) scheme. Support from USO Fund will be provided for broadband connectivity. It has been envisaged that broadband can be provided using 3G, other wireless technologies, existing copper or optical fiber network. The Government has formed an Inter-Ministerial Group Universal Services Obligation (USO) fund. The group will discuss how the various Government Departments and agencies spread across the country can promote the usage of broadband. The major reason for the operators / ISPs not venturing into the rural areas for broadband provisioning is lack of established demand and also poor availability of power.


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