Maran backs Trai's plan to cut DSL entry costs

NEW DELHI: The telecommunication ministry is working on a plan that would attempt to bring down the entry prices of digital subscriber lines (DSL), used for a host of services like cable TV, Internet, etc. The plan is part of a larger initiative to give a push to broadband in the country.

According to sources in the department of telecommunication, the new minister for telecom and IT, Dayanidhi Maran, has asked department officials to look into this aspect so that a formal announcement in this regard could take place.

Telecom and broadcast regulator, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), which came out with a paper on broadband recently, is of the opinion that Indian DSL costs 60 times as much per bit as Korea, (Japan and Korea in the $20 to $30 range, and China around $15) resulting in minimal take-up.

Amongst other suggestions, Trai has proposed cutting duties and taxes, unbundling for competitors, and direct pressure on the national telecom companies to cut prices. Trai is also working actively to lower the cost of connecting to the international Net.

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.

Telecom department sources added that because Maran is young and comes from a media business background, he is keen to push ahead with technology that would not only help the telecom sector, but also other sectors like cable and broadcasting.

The government sources said that Maran is taken up by Trai's suggestion that India could have 20 million DSL subscribers over a period of few years if the price goes down to $9 from a comparative high of over $ 40.

Big telecom companies like the Tatas-controlled VSNL and Reliance have evinced keen interest in broadband networks and DSL and have been ordering equipment in hundreds of thousands to tap this virgin market. Both VSNL and Reliance have fiber backbones, barely utilized, to the major cities, and international alliances for bandwidth.

Some of the advantages of DSL are the following:

· You can leave your Internet connection open and still use the phone line for voice calls.

· The speed is much higher than a regular modem (1.5 Mbps vs. 56 Kbps)

· DSL doesn't necessarily require new wiring; it can use the phone line you already have.

The company that offers DSL will usually provide the modem as part of the installation.

The sources indicated that though Maran would like to push ahead with the Convergence Communication Bill, but various political compulsions would have to be taken into account before the Bill, which has lapsed with the demise of the previous Parliament and government, could be revived.

"The minister would like to confer with the Prime Minister before he takes any formal step regarding the Communications Bill," a government source said. The Communications Convergence Bill, amongst other things, envisages an over-arching law for the convergence era with a common regulator for telecom, IT and broadcast sectors.

However, where Maran may face some difficulty in reviving the Bill is the fact that one of the important allies of the present United Progressive Alliance Government is the Left parties and it was a parliamentary panel headed by Somnath Chatterjee, the now-speaker of Parliament and a Communist Party Marxist Member of Parliament, that had suggested over 70 amendments in the Convergence Bill.

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