TRAI asks: How can we improve broadband coverage in India?

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has started consultation on how to promote broadband penetration in the country through both wireless, copper and fiber technologies.


“India ranks 125th in the world for Fixed Broadband penetration with only 1.2 per 100 inhabitants having access to fixed broadband. With the world average being 9.4 per 100 inhabitants, the country comes in below average in terms of fixed broadband penetration according to the State of the Broadband report of September 2014,” the regulator noted in its consultation paper released just now.

Against a target of achieving 175 million broadband connections in India by 2017, only 60.87 million have been achieved. “The country is nowhere near meeting the target for a service which is considered almost a basic necessity in many developed countries.

“Broadband is helping to deliver a wide range of services, from services directly related to the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations, to services in support of broader citizen participation or services leveraged across different sectors to bring more people into the formal economy.

“Therefore there is an urgent need to review the present policies and its implementation initiated to build infrastructure required for penetration of broadband in the country,” TRAI added.

State owned companies viz. BSNL and MTNL together have about 74.9% market share for wireline broadband and 30.5% for overall broadband subscriptions, it noted.

“This suggests that despite having a license for providing broadband services, the majority of the service providers are either unwilling or unable to penetrate into the market and the market is still dominated by a few players only.”

TRAI said encouragement should be provided to cable broadband as well as optical fiber. It estimated that the capital cost of 50 Mbps cable broadband infrastructure is around Rs 12,000 per user, while that of optic fiber broadband in India would be around Rs 24,600 in flats and Rs 31,200 in single houses.

“Amongst available access technologies, OFC is perhaps best suited to support futuristic broadband needs. But, it is expensive. So the objective invariably is to reduce costs,” it said.

In wireless, TRAI said the humble Wi-Fi needs to be utilized more, but also noted that in India, the law does not permit high power WiFi stations to be set up.

“WiFi is a cheaper technology and can provide good coverage in remote areas with few access points. This is a very effective technology for increasing broadband penetration. 2.4 GHz band has already been de-licensed and therefore can be used effectively for this purpose. However, presently only low power outdoor usage of Wi-Fi is permitted, resulting in limitation of distance,” it said.

It asked telecom operators and others as to what immediate measures can be taken to promote broadband in India.