For Broadband to be a Mass Phenomenon, it has to be Wireless

 

The Government of India had announced in 2004, the Broadband Policy. As per the Policy 3 million connections were required by 2006, 9 million by 2007 and 20 million by 2010. Broadband connection has  been defined as a minimum of 256 Kbps ‘always-on’ connections. Various technology options such as Optical Fiber, Satellite, DSL, Terrestrial Wireless, etc have been considered.

 

2.   The National Broadband Policy

The National Broadband Policy as announced by the Department of Telecom is targeting 20 million broadband subscribers and 40 million Internet subscribers by 2010. The thrust is to accelerate Internet and Broadband growth. The brief details of the Policy are below:

Delicencing of the 2.40-2.48 GHz band for low power out-door use.

 

           Enabling VSAT operators to transmit data up to 2 Mbps, compared to the earlier restriction of 512 kbps in a closed user group domestic VSAT network. Enabling direct-to-home (DTH) operators to provide one-way Internet facility as part of a bouquet of services after obtaining an ISP licence. For bi-directional Internet service, a VSAT licence will also be required.Enabling Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) to enter into commercial arrangements with the private players for utilizing the available copper loop and content creation.

 

           A transparent scheme is being outlined separately for time-bound frequency allocation, site clearance and wireless licensing by removing the cumbersome procedures, computerization and by setting predetermined standards.

 

2.1 Broadband connectivity

Broadband connectivity is defined at present as an ‘always-on’ data connection that is able to support interactive services including Internet access and has the capability of the minimum download speed of 256 kilo bits per second (kbps) to an individual subscriber from the Point Of Presence (POP) of the service provider intending to provide Broadband service where multiple individual Broadband connections are aggregated and the subscriber is able to access these interactive services including the Internet through this POP.  The interactive services will exclude any services for which a separate licence is specifically required, for example, real-time voice transmission, except to the extent that it is presently permitted under ISP licence with Internet Telephony.” 

 

2.2 Technology Options for Broadband Services

The Broadband Policy Framework visualizes creation of infrastructure through various access technologies, which can contribute to growth and can mutually coexist. Spread of infrastructure is considered a must for healthy competition and therefore it would be the endeavor of the Government that the telecommunication infrastructure growth in the country is not compromised in any manner.

 

Various access technologies include:

(a) Optical Fiber Technologies: The fiber optics technology can provide nearly unlimited bandwidth potential and is steadily replacing copper network especially in intra-city backbone networks.  This is being deployed in commercial buildings and complexes and some metros / big cities having high-density potential broadband subscribers.  Hybrid Fiber Coaxial (HFC), Fiber to the Curb (FTTC) and Fiber to the Home (FTTH) networks make use of fiber cabling into the last mile. The fiber based models are future proof as they are able to provide huge amounts of bandwidth in the last mile as well as provide a true IP and converged network that can deliver high quality voice, data and video. There are more than 4.5 lakh route kms of optical fiber laid by BSNL / MTNL and more than 1 lakh route kms laid by private operators.  The spread of the networks of private service providers have to play an important role in bringing the fiber to homes as well as the rural areas and they are expected to focus on it. With the increase in commercial availability of fiber technologies, the cost of fiber rollout is approaching the cost of other wired networks.  Spread of optical fiber networks will be emphasized keeping in view-the-long-term perspective.     

 

(b) Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL): On copper loop DSL has proved to be an important technology for provisioning of Broadband services through the copper loop. The owners of copper loop have are given high priority because their role is critical as key drivers in the broadband service market using DSL. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) as well as other access providers are expected to aggressively use their copper loop infrastructure for providing Broadband services through this technology.

 

Recognizing that last mile copper loop is not a ‘bottleneck facility’ for broadband services, access providers will be free to enter into mutually agreed commercial arrangements for utilization of available copper loop for expansion of broadband services.  The owner of local loop will be free to decide the areas in which investment is to be made to upgrade the infrastructure for Broadband services.  The information regarding the areas in which Broadband services are being offered by a service provider will be available in the public domain. Further, use of brand name being treated as a part of the value will be permitted in such commercial arrangements. There are more than 40 million copper loops in the country available with BSNL and MTNL out of which 14 million loops are in rural areas. Copper cable network of these operators is a combination of old and new cable and this makes provisioning of broadband on all the available copper loop technically unfit. Therefore, around 25-30% of the remaining 26 million loops, i.e. approximately 7 million loops can be leveraged for broadband service by BSNL and MTNL taking into account the condition / life of copper cable and demand potential.  A quarterly review of their performance by the Government in the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will be undertaken to evaluate the achievement and redefine the future roadmap, if necessary.

 

(c) Cable TV Network: It is noted that cable TV connection as last mile infrastructure reaches more people than even the telephone copper infrastructure and can be leveraged in providing cable operators a new business model while giving a stimulus to Broadband penetration. Therefore, Cable TV network can be used as franchisee network of the service provider for provisioning Broadband services.  However, all responsibilities for ensuring compliance of terms & conditions of the licence will vest with the Licencee.  The terms of franchise agreement between Licencee and his franchisee will be settled mutually by negotiation between the two parties involved.

 

(d) Satellite Media: Even though satellite role has been recognized in the Policy for providing broadband connectivity, specific issues which take into account the advantages of broadcast reach of satellite medium have not been properly addressed to make satellite media attractive. The emphasis has been on the optical fiber and copper. There is a perception that satellite systems are too costly which makes the use of the system very restrictive. Some of the issues are with respect to the bandwidth and associated cost and the cost of the equipment. Further there is a need to recast the way the information services are to be provided, if satellites are to play meaningful role in the broadband services.

 

The purpose of this report is to address the following.

 

a)   Definition of broadband service as applicable to satellite medium. The existing definition will make satellite capacity for connectivity very low and very costly.

b)   Broadly, identify the markets that can be addressed by satellite medium to provide broadband services and their size

c)   How to exploit the easy availability of low cost DTH set top boxes to provide broadband broadcast services together with the recasting of the information services requirements.

 

Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSAT) and Direct-to-Home (DTH) services would be encouraged for penetration of Broadband and Internet services with the added advantage to serve remote and inaccessible areas.  It is the intention of the Government to make available transponder capacity for VSAT services at competitive rates after taking into consideration the security requirements. Department of Telecommunications, in consultation with the concerned Ministries, will propose measures in the direction of Open Sky Policy for VSAT operators. The role of Department of Space is critical in such an endeavor. 

 

VSAT service providers are permitted to transmit data up to 2Mbps instead of earlier limit of 512 kbps in a Closed User Group domestic VSAT network.  The increased data rate allows new applications like bulk data transfer for software industry, high-speed backhaul links, in-house training using audio-visual etc.   Reduction in antenna size enables easy installation, lower space occupancy, lower cost of hardware etc.  Accordingly, the antenna size has been reduced to 1.2 meters and 2.4 meters for star network and mesh network respectively in extended C-band.  In Ku-band also, 1 meter diameter antenna in star network has been permitted.  To keep pace with technological advances, this will be periodically reviewed. 

Commercial VSAT service providers having ISP licence will be permitted use of same hub station and remote station to provide Internet service directly to the subscribers.  Further, this remote station will be permitted to be used as a distribution point to provide Internet services to multiple independent subscribers.  Necessary amendments in the licence agreement will be carried out. 

 

DTH service providers will be permitted to provide Receive Only Internet Service after obtaining ISP licence from Department of Telecommunications. Further, ISP licencees will be permitted to allow customers for downloading data through DTH after obtaining necessary permission from the competent authority.  DTH Service providers will also be permitted to provide bi-directional Internet services after obtaining VSAT and ISP licence from Dot. BSNL is planning to create a network of 14,000 digital satellite phones.

 

(e) Terrestrial Wireless: Recognizing that terrestrial wireless is another upcoming technology platform for Broadband, it has been decided to de-licence 2.40-2.48 GHz band for low-power outdoor use on non-protection, non-interference and non-exclusive basis.  Necessary notification bas been issued.  Notification regarding delicencing 2.40-2.4835 MHz band for low power indoor permitting use of all technologies, which inter-alia include those based on IEEE 802.11b and 802.11g  standards, has been issued.

 

To accelerate penetration of Broadband and Internet, the 5.15-5.35 GHz band will be de-licenced for the indoor use of low power Wi-Fi systems.  For outdoor use, the band 5.25-5.35 GHz will be de-licenced in consultation with DoS and delicencing in the band 5.15-5.25 GHz would be considered after the process of vacation.  Alternative spectrum bands which are not in high usage and could be deployed for Broadband services, will also be explored and identified.

 

(f) Future Technologies : In the changing technology scenario, there is a possibility of new options being used for provisioning of Broadband services.  These technologies can also be utilized for provisioning of such services within the licensing framework of the service provider and the spectrum management policy of DoT

 

It is essential that for broadband to become a mass phenomenon and to take it to smaller towns, it has to be wireless,

 

As already stated it is logical  that for broadband to become a mass phenomenon and to take it to smaller towns, it has to be wireless, as investing in a copper or fibre network right up to the consumer’s home is not going to be a viable business model for smaller towns and rural areas. Most of the broadband service providers are not planning to expand their (copper or fibre-based) broadband business from the current base of 94 towns.

As per the role of WImax some operators have already started their services using Wimax. (Wimax is short for worldwide inter-operability for microwave access, a standard that is capable of data speeds of 10 megabits per second (mbps) up to 2km from a radio transmitter. In comparison, third generation (3G) networks promise data to the tune of 2mbps and current data-friendly cellular networks deliver speeds of up to 512 kilobits per second).

For this one  can go either way (technologically): it can be either Wimax or it can be HSPA (high-speed packet access, delivered on 3G networks), depending on government policy. the government to come out with

 

Once a clear policy is announced, there will be a mass market for wireless Internet in the country, with speeds in the range of 512kbps to 1mbps (two to four times the speed of most wired broadband connections in the ­country.)It is  hoped that the    consumers can have a variety of options  from such a service,as it will it be targeted not only  the PC but use other platform to deliver content services as well.such as  television channels and video on demand(IPTV).

 

While consumers can, of course, expect content services, it may not be directly provided by the broadband service provider. . And looking at the trends in the industry, one can think that the content is going to be generated from a variety of sources and it is not possible to cater to all the demands of our customers by generating all the content ourselves.

 

So, it is not going to be like television channel distribution or IPTV (Internet protocol television) using wireless Internet?

It is possible  that the traditional form of consuming content, television channels, will be relevant only for time-critical services like news and sports. Most video content will be accessed through non-broadcast means like it is already starting to happen in some countries, and the demand for Internet access will be the main driver for such services. In the US, for example, more people watch the presidential candidate debate on YouTube (Google’s platform for sharing user-generated video content) than by going to the website of the television channel and watching it live. Such alternative platforms for content will become more and more prevalent and we will be a conduit for them.

 

We will have to consider the price point  broadband service to be taken up, especially in the semi-urban and rural areas?

Right now,  DSL (digital subscriber line, a wired broadband user-base of around 700,000 is in the cities. As we move to a new technology, wireless model, especially in smaller towns, it will have to be a pre-paid model. The same plan that are being offered at Rs999 per month will then likely to be priced at Rs500 or so per month.