Regulators

TRAI chief pushes for b'band over cable TV, BharatNet for upping penetration

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NEW DELHI: Pointing out that initiatives such as broadband over cable and government’s OFC project BharatNet are important to increase broadband penetration, TRAI chairman RS Sharma has called for aggressively boosting India's data connectivity profile as the country lags way behind many Asian countries on this score.

According to Sharma, India's data connectivity ranking was below Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Singapore, and way below the 46 per cent of average data connectivity level worldwide.

“Indian telcos have delivered ubiquitous voice connectivity at affordable rates, but data connectivity remains a pain-point with the country ranked at 138 among the 175-odd countries, which is even below many African countries and island nations," the Economic Times quoted Sharma from his keynote address at the ET Telecom India Mobile Congress last Friday.

Highlighting the proactive nature of the regulator in giving fillip to broadband penetration, Sharma said the sector regulator has already recommended deployment of cable TV infrastructure for beefing up broadband, especially since 100 million homes already have cable connections. More recently, it has advocated freeing up new spectrum bands to ring in affordable Wi-Fi services in public places, the ET report stated, adding the chief regulator revealed the Department of Electronics & IT (DeitY) and the telecom department (DoT) were jointly initiating “a pilot program to offer affordable Wi-Fi, affordable Wi-Fi connectivity with free localized content“.

Asserting that the national broadband project BharatNet would see significant acceleration in the coming months, the ET report quoted Sharma as saying the project could play a key role in boosting India's overall data connectivity profile if implemented through the public-private partnership model as suggested by TRAI.

Responding to a query on high spectrum costs in India, Sharma said the regulator had advocated a “pay-as-you-go model” for spectrum payouts to ease fiscal pains for telcos.

Going forward, the sector regulator, according to the report, may also suggest that mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) be allowed to partner with multiple telcos, which would give consumers more choice for voice and data services and also allowing telcos more options to monetize unused airwaves.

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