India to hold rural wireless NBN auction in June

Dylan Bushell-Embling
telecomasia.net
India is pulling out all the stops after missing its broadband subscriber targets for last year, announcing plans to invite bids for a national rural wireless broadband network.
 
The telecom ministry will ask for bids from fixed and wireless operators for a rollout of wireless broadband services aimed at bridging the urban-rural digital divide, Economic Times reported
 
Only one of two slots will be auctioned in each of the 22 circles, with the second to be reserved for state-owned BSNL.
 
The rollout will be subsidized through the nation's Universal Service Obligation Fund. Potential bidders can choose any technology although the ministry is expected to favor 3G or BWA license winners.
 
The department is meanwhile in disagreement with regulator Trai over the ministry's plans to involve BSNL in the concurrent rollout of a national fiber network.
 
Trai believes it would be anticompetitive to have BSNL act as the executing agency to roll out the fiber backbone, as it is also one of the service providers, The Telegraph India reported
 
The goals of the planned open-access network could be threatened if “anti-competitive behavior [sets] into the network management,” Trai said in a letter read by the news agency.
 
Regulators and the ministry also disagree over the ministry's proposal to extend fiber only to the gram panchayat (local government) level and not to smaller villages, and to avoid cities with the rollout assuming competition will ensure they are covered anyway, Livemint said
 
The Indian government's 600 billion rupee ($13.43 billion) National Broadband Plan, which is still being finalized, aims to ensue 160 million broadband connections across India by 2014.
 
The government had been targeting 20 million broadband connections by December 2010, but Livemint said Trai estimates that there were just 10.7 million connections by February 2011.

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