TRAI needs holistic view on India's broadband plan

Santosh Sathanur/Ovum
OvumEarlier this week, we attended a Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) forum to discuss the country’s proposed National Broadband Plan, in which key stakeholders including mobile operators, equipment vendors, cable operators, and consumer groups shared their views.
 
With the impending launch of 3G/BWA services, TRAI will need to ensure that any policy on broadband is both non-discriminatory and forward-looking in order to accommodate the interests of all players in the ecosystem.
 
Although India already has a national broadband policy, drafted in 2004, it was felt that a new broadband plan was needed because the previous policy has largely failed to increase broadband penetration in the country.
 
Broadband penetration in India is currently less than 1%, despite the fact that there are 104 operators. Currently there are only 200,000 new broadband connections per month – compared to an equivalent of 15–18 million new mobile connections.
 
Some of the key proposals from the participants included local loop unbundling (LLU) of MTNL and BSNL’s networks, tax benefits for broadband CPE, separate definitions for fixed and mobile broadband, auctioning of the 700MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum, and equitable treatment of all broadband service providers.
 
Some of the participants rightly pointed out the short-term nature of planning by TRAI in its consultation paper. We believe that the new policy should include plans to increase broadband penetration through to 2020, unlike the existing proposal of planning up to 2014.
 

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