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BROADBAND: Pricing May Do the Trick

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VoicenData Bureau
New Update

A speaker at an international event in 2002 opined, "There is virtually

no broadband in India." That situation is more or less unchanged with less

than a lakh broadband subscribers, mostly residential, in a country of 1

billion. But there are signs of things taking shape in coming months with some

serious plans unfolding at Reliance, BSNL, MTNL, Dishnet and Sify Broadband.

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More than plain talks, there has been some action on the ground as well in

the last few months. BSNL has started its pilot project in Kolkata and is likely

to commercialize the operations during the current year. Reliance has taken the

first step towards broadband by opening Webstores, which will offer the entire

range of broadband services including video-conferencing and online gaming

facilities. The next phase of services that is slated to start by September

would target enterprise users. Similarly, Tata Teleservices, Dishnet and Sify

Broadband are some of the players who have started making their presence felt

through innovative strategy targeted at residential and corporate customers.

MTNL has finally made a beginning to leverage its telephone lines to offer DSL

services. The essential ingredients of broadband, like low subscription cost,

ease-of-access, cheaper CPE and presence of competition, which were hitherto

absent, have started to become a reality.

BROADBAND BREAKUP
DSL

Subscribers
DishnetDSL 20,000
Others* 750
Internet

Over Cable
Hathway 6,000
In2Cable 8,000
ZeeNext 1,000
Others* 900
Total 15,900
*Others

include Spectranet, BG Broadband, etc
Source:

V&D100, 2002

Content Is Important



Ultimately, the development of new compelling broadband content and

applications will drive the demand for broadband, which will motivate operators

to roll out services in new areas. As far as newer applications development is

concerned, service providers have realized its need. For example, software

developers at Reliance Infocomm’s development center in Mumbai have developed

over 1,000 applications. All operators have to take initiatives to forge a

partnership with application and content developers.

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Government’s Role Is Critical



There has to be a conscious effort on part of the government to stimulate

demand by investing in the creation of infrastructure at the access level, as

sufficient backbone infrastructure is already in place. Time is now to leverage

it. A good demand for broadband services from the corporate segment does exist

in India, but there is a need to expand the base if broadband is to really pick

up. Incidentally, the government or public sector can become the largest

purchaser of broadband services, if it were to reach out to masses through

e-governance, besides networking the educational institutions of the country.

For example, online content for teaching and learning could be a catalyst for

creating such a demand. The government of UK invested £80 million for broadband

links to schools during 2000-02. In India, only private institutions have

recently started networking their campuses to allow students a high-speed access

to the Internet. XLRI’s tie up with Hughes Escorts is an example of successful

implementation of a broadband project. There is a strong need for a private

sector-government-institution initiatives in this regard.

Another important stimulant for the broadband usage would be to increase the

narrowband Internet (dial-up) users as these users would be the ones who would

want broadband access. This has not happened till now and the user base

continues to stagnate. Much has been talked about the development of Internet

access devices other than PC, but things have not really taken off,

notwithstanding the hype about Simputer. At another level, considering that not

everyone would access broadband services on personal devices, it is essential on

the part of government to facilitate public or community access to these

services.

Affordability is the Mantra



To grow the broadband user base, the service has to be priced around Rs 500

per month, considering the average purchasing capacity of the Indian user.

Probably broadband service providers can take a cue from the success of mobile

services. Pricing the prepaid services at an extremely affordable rate (as low

as Rs 300 per month) drove the cellular growth in India. The decline in Internet

subscriber numbers may be arrested with high-speed community access of the

Internet thorough cyber cafes becoming popular, thanks to innovative strategies

of players like Sify and Dishnet. Reliance too, through Webstores, would try to

replicate the same. But these services are still not widespread and are

concentrated in major metros and big cities. And the rates are still not at

affordable levels.

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Sudesh Prasad

THE PLAYERS, THEIR PLANS, AND THE STATUS

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited



<www.bsnl.co.in>



Network: Countrywide network, NIB-II Universal Access Gateway
infrastructure



Services (to be offered): Broadcast TV, video-on-demand, interactive
gaming, video-conferencing, high-speed Internet access–128 kbps and above



Technology: ADSL, SHDSL and VDSL that deliver voice, data and video
services over increasingly larger bandwidths using ATM/Ethernet/IP-based DSLAMs

in local networks to residential and corporate users.



Status: Services yet to start. BSNL came up with an EoI last year and has
undertaken a pilot project in Kolkata.



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Reliance Infocomm



<www.relianceinfo.com>



Network: Fiberization of 200,000 buildings commenced in 67 cities, with
gigabit Ethernet connectivity.



Technology: DWDM Technology in core national backbone with an extensive
OFC network.



Services (to be offered): Video telephony/conference, wide area Ethernet,
streaming of audio and video, work-from-anywhere systems, disaster recovery,

remote surveillance, bandwidth-on-demand, secure 100 Mbps extranet, wireless

LANs, etc.



Status: Services to be operational by Q2/Q3 2003


Tata Teleservices



<www.tatateleservices.com>



Network: Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Delhi, Mumbai,
Maharashtra, and Gujarat



Partners: Lucent, Alcatel, UTStarcom


Services: High-speed data services on ADSL and HDSL, multimedia and
video-streaming, tele-education



Status: Operational in some circles


MTNL



<www.mtnl.net.in>



Network: Delhi and Mumbai


Status: Pilot project has been started. Regular services will be launched
soon



Services: High-speed Internet (64 kbps to 2 Mbps)


Technology: DSL


Partners: NA


Status: Pilot stage




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Bharti Broadband



<www.bhartibroadband.com>



Network: Five states (fixed line)


Customers: 50


Services: Singular delivery platform for Internet, VSAT and broadband for
enterprise and residential consumers



Partners: Alcatel, Cisco, Nortel


Status: Operational



Dishnet DSL



<www.ddsl.net>



Network: Largely nationwide with presence in 200 cities, 38 network
access points.



Services: High-speed Internet services, broadband cyber cafes,
video-conferencing



Partners: Ericsson, Cisco


Technology: DSL


Customers: 20,000 (residential and corporate)


Status: Operational




Sify Broadband



<www.sifybroadband.com>



Network: Chennai and Mumbai (to be available in Delhi, Bangalore,
Hyderabad and Pune soon)



Services: High-speed, low-cost Internet connection for homes.


Technology: Hybrid technology that includes an Ethernet network and
wireless network for the last mile. Assured speeds of 48-64 kbps



Partners: Cisco


Status: Operational


Others:


BG Broadband
, Hathway, ZeeNext. Gateway Systems, Hughes

Escorts
, HCL Comnet, Comsat Max, Spectranet




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BROADBAND ENABLERS

TATA Broadband



<www.tatabroadband.com, www.tatadwdm.com>


Operates as a division of Tata Power and is a carrier’s carrier.


Network:
600-km fiber-optic network spread across Mumbai and Pune.



Technology:
DWDM in a metropolitan area network.



Partners:
Sycamore, Cisco



Offerings:
Virtual fiber/wavelength services: Provides a raw bandwidth pipe

of 2.5 Gbps. It consolidates multiple traffic channels on to a single fiber,

creating several virtual fibers, each operating at 2.5 Gbps.



TDM capacity dedicated to customers: Capacity to handle data traffic demands in
multiples of 2 Mbps, scaling up to 2.5 Gbps.



IP services: Flexible capacities (10 Mbps to 1 Gbps Ethernet). Virtual
private network to connect all locations.



Status:
Operational with 50 customers


PowerGrid



<www.powergridindia.com>


Network:
6,000 km of optic fiber. Delhi—Mumbai, Delhi—Lucknow, Delhi—Chandigarh,

Delhi—Jaipur, and Delhi—Meerut route.



Services:
Provides broadband capacity to various telecom service providers

call centers, and corporates



Customers:
Bharti Telesonic



Status:
Operational

Gas Authority of India Limited



<http://gail.nic.in>


Network:
Optical fiber coverage of 4,000 km including the Delhi—Mumbai

route in the Phase I expansion project. Phase II will creating redundancy for

the Delhi—Mumbai route, and cover 63 demand centers in the Northwest corridor.



Services:
Present operational bandwidth capacity of 10 Gbps



Installed Capacity:
160 Gbps (upgradable to 1.2 Tbps)



Technology:
DWDM



Customers:
Bharti Telesonics, Escotel Mobile



Status:
Operational in Delhi—Mumbai, Delhi—Lucknow, Delhi—Chandigarh,

Delhi—Jaipur, and Delhi—Meerut

RaiTel



<www.railtelindia.com>


Network:
Nationwide



Technology:
DWDM/SDH



Services:
Bandwidth services (from 64 kbps to 155 Mbps and 2.5 Gbps),

high-speed Internet kiosks and multimedia cafes at various railway stations.



Partners:
ECIL, Tejas and STCL, HFCL, Huawei



Status as of May 2002:
Optic fiber cable commissioned: 7,879 rkm; optic

fiber cable laid 4,695, 3. Optic fiber cable work in progress 11,664. A total of

37,554 rkm is to be completed by March 2005

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