Cable TV

Broadband plan to clear way for telcos' entry into cable?

NEW DELHI: A comprehensive broadband policy, which is scheduled to be introduced in the Parliament during this session, but is still undergoing changes, controversially proposes that telecom companies/service providers could use cable networks as their franchisees to provide all types of services.

It is not known whether the department of telecommunication would include this suggestion in the policy paper that is finally tabled in Parliament by IT and telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran.

The policy paper also rejects a suggestion by the telecom and broadcast and cable regulator that the annual licence fee of a KU-band DTH service be clipped by at least two per cent.

Contacted by yesterday, Maran, who's away to Chennai, refused to confirm or deny anything saying, "Once I am in Delhi, we could possibly talk on the issue (broadband policy)."

The particular clause on telecom companies vis-à-vis cable networks has the potential of causing an upheaval in the telecom and cable industry as it might give telecom companies instant access to over 45 million cable homes, while ruling out a vice-versa-type of situation.

Hypothetically speaking, this could mean that if an alliance happens, Reliance's proposed broadband network can use the infrastructure of a Siti Cable to tap into cable homes. It could also mean that a Bharti or a Hutch (telecom service providers) could tie-up with a Hathway or INCablenet for providing all types of services under an umbrella structure when a unified licensing regime comes about.

The policy paper also rejects an open sky policy for V-Sat (very small aperture terminal) and DTH services, but suggests that a DTH service provider could give Internet services once it has an ISP (Internet service provider) license and provide a two-way path once it obtains a V-Sat license.

Contrary to expectations, no reduction in the spectrum charges have been suggested, but there is a proposal to delicence frequencies between 2.4 and 2.48 Ghz, which could be used for MMDS (multi-point multi-distribution services). Frequencies above 5 Ghz, used for wireless transmission purposes also, could be delicenced at a later stage.

There are some other suggestions too that are likely to benefit V-Sat operators.

The focus of the paper, which is more of a vision statement than a policy guideline, lays emphasis on DSL and says that state-controlled Bharat Sanchar Nigam and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd would promote DSL in a big way.

What is DSL? When you connect to the Internet, you might connect through a regular modem, through a local-area network connection in your office, through a cable modem or through a digital subscriber line (DSL) connection. DSL is a very high-speed connection that uses the same wires as a regular telephone line.

A common configuration of DSL allows downloads at speeds of up to 1.544 megabits (not megabytes) per second, and uploads at speeds of 128 kilobits per second. This arrangement is called ADSL or asymmetric digital subscriber line.

However, there is unanimity on the broadband subscriber target, which has been pegged at 3 million by 2005, 9 million by 2007 and 20 million by 2010.

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