Trai seeks stakeholder views to raise broadband penetration

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) today issued a consultation paper on ‘National Broadband Plan‘ to figure out how to increase broadband penetration in the country.

Trai has noted that it is a matter of concern that broadband penetration in India is low in spite of the fact that 104 telecom service providers are providing broadband services. The broadband penetration is just 0.74 per cent when compared with teledensity of 52.74 per cent.

A need is being felt to identify impediments and create an environment to encourage broadband growth.The net broadband addition per month is just 0.1 to 0.2 million in contrast to approximately 18 million mobile connections per month, Trai said.
Availability of broadband services at affordable tariff will provide access to enormous information, facilitate delivery of civic services, increase GDP contributions, generate more employment and enhance productivity.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) had made a reference to Trai seeking its recommendations on the need to review the definition of Broadband connectivity in view of future growth in internet/broadband driven by wireless technologies.

No of fixed line and Broadband Connection in Metros
Name of MetroNo. of fixed linesNo. of Broadband connectionsBroadband as a Percentage of fixed line connections

Though 70 per cent of Indian population lives in rural areas, broadband facility is limited to metro and major cities. Availability of broadband is critical for development of rural areas. Out of total 9 million broadband subscribers at the end of April 2010, just 5 per cent are in rural areas. The low broadband penetration in rural areas is attributed to non availability of transmission media connectivity upto village level.

The situation demands an urgent focus on creation of robust national infrastructure scalable to cater to future requirements not only in urban areas but also upto villages. For making all villages broadband enabled, an option being explored is taking optical fibre to 375,552 villages having population of 500 or more.

Such a network would require laying of about 12 billion kilometres of optical fibre at a cost of about Rs 323 billion.

Funding of such project could be considered from Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) for non-skilled work and from Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF) for material and equipment cost. This optical fibre network would integrate with backbones of various service providers and users would be able to get broadband with a variety of wired and wireless solutions.

Some of the questions raised are: What should be done to increase broadband demand and improve the perceived utility of broadband among the masses; what measures should be taken to enhance the availability of useful applications for broadband; How can broadband be made more consumer friendly especially to those having limited knowledge of English and computer; is the existing telecom infrastructure is inadequate to support broadband demand; the network topology perceived to support high speed broadband using evolving wireless technologies; is there a prominent role for fibre based technologies in access network in providing high speed broadband in next five years; and changes needed in existing licensing and regulatory framework to encourage cable TV operators to upgrade their networks to provide broadband.

Trai has asked stakeholders to send their comments on the consultation paper by 7 July.

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