Content, carrier hold key to broadband in India

NEW DELHI: Making a strong pitch for broadband, a senior government official said that adequate solution to the vexed issues of carrier and content will have to be addressed.

Speaking at the valedictory session of a summit on broadband, organised by CII, Planning Commission of India secretary Rajeeva Ratna Shah said, "Carrier and content holds the key. We have to get our act right. If we can do that, I have no doubt the broadband revolution will grow exponentially."



Pointing out that it was important to unleash the spectrum and wireless for broadband, Shah called for taking bold steps like de-licensing the spectrum regime. "Wi-Max is on the horizon, we need to catch it", he said.

Another major area of concern, he said, was the question of receptors. "Computers or television? Which one is to be used for broadband roll-out," he asked. The problem with television in India, according to Shah, was that it is analogue equipment and signals in the last-mile degrade very fast.

In case of computers, he pointed out, even though it is digital equipment, it remains high cost equipment and since India is a price sensitive market, it is imperative that the cost of computers has to come down.



In India, cable TV became popular because of its affordability. Similarly, in case of mobile telephony, the subscriber numbers multiplied after the prices dropped drastically. "In order to be the receptor, the prices of computers will have to be set right," he said.

Further, Shah said that the approach must be different for urban and rural areas. For urban areas, he suggested the use of existing cable connections, DSL and Wi-Fi for broadband delivery. However, he said, "This will require decisions like unbundling in the last mile and open access," and added that he saw no reason why the incumbents resisted the change.

"They have to see there is lot of traffic which is not getting generated. Eventually, they will have to let it go," he remarked and added that it will also benefit the incumbent.

For the rural market, he said the broadband infrastructure required high degree of innovative thinking and added that the "whole thinking process of department of telecom (DOT) has to change from voice-based delivery mechanism to broadband delivery mechanism".

Shah called for the universal service obligation (USO) funds to be deployed systematically and not necessarily through Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL),

a state-controlled telecom behemoth. He also mooted the idea of "worth while public-private partnership."

On the question of content, Shah, who has served in senior positions in Prasar Bharati and information and broadcasting ministry too, said that the existing business models like e-choupal, though extremely good, were dependent on narrow band technology. "The rural service providers will have to work on Wi-Fi or Wi-max to create a successful business model." he added.

He said that there was no doubt about bandwidth usage and commented that there was no room for doubting broadband's ability to deliver for the economic upliftment of the country.

Speaking on the occasion, department of IT joint secretary Pankaj Agrawala said that one major area where broadband could be used to improve efficiency was in the area of land records. The whole process of digitisation enabling the lowest rung will bring a major shift in familiarisation in technology, he said.

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