Today, I was reading New Telecom Policy from Dept. of Telecom. Must say I am disappointed. Everyday I hear a new story on 3G & LTE in India. About wireless we all know that due to super limited spectrum, it’s good only smartphones. Hard to call even LTE as an alternate even to DSL. LTE has yet to come, but still it will hardly compete with DSL in tier 3 cities and rural India. For tier 1 cities like Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and tier 2 cities like Gurgaon, Jaipur - broadband still suffers badly and we all know but just not accepting that wireless broadband is not way out to that. I am not against wireless broadband. I totally agree to fact that for mass deployment wireless is way to go but I strongly feel that another serious effort is needed in wired broadband connectivity. I am happy to get 2Mbps connection via 3G on my Idea cellular phone, and I don’t really complain for it’s cost because of spectrum crunch and all but I feel super surprised on fact that I get 512Kbps capped broadband on DSL when technically it can go over 16Mbps easily. It’s hard to comment on how well fiber connections to Gram Panchayats will perform. All we can say it’s good and nice initiative given they don’t create parallel infrastructure. But why Govt. is missing out demand in big cities where wired infrastructure is “decent” or can be made decent (based on demand)? I don’t see any good efforts being made by Govt. for improving broadband speeds or connectivity by making maximum use of existing copper infrastructure. Working professionals in cities like Gurgaon/Chennai still suffer badly for “decent” broadband while most of them could have given broadband - demand & technology - both of things are there. Just missing willingness on side of Govt. What’s point in FTTH now which “can” give 1Gbps speed given one is ready to pay ~$1500 a month for that sort of speeds?
Following (not-so-hard) things can bring real change in broadband:
- Force Govt. telcos to increase speed - start offerings from 2Mbps. It won’t really hurt BSNL/MTNL in long run. Excess and cheap International bandwidth really enables telcos to increase speed by as little as 4-8 times and last mile isn’t very bad either for that much speeds.
- Change peering policy and start taking niXi seriously.
- Just like telephone call benchmarks, have good benchmarking for routing too which is badly screwed up here.
- Change new connection policy for students & working professionals. I know atleast a dozen of friends who want, can afford and would love to have an good wired connection for heavy usage BUT for very strange reason one needs an address proof for new DSL connection (which is hard to get for temporary stay), while nothing like that in wireless datacards connections. This needs to be fixed. Simple, but very major problem.
- Unbundle last mile - it’s badly required for growth. BSNL can’t really operate all alone on huge copper infrastructure.
- Make BSNL more dynamic in deployments - I never understand what’s point in city wide launch of FTTH when there’s no huge demand, nor BSNL is on huge cash to afford things for fun? But surely, if there’s huge demand in say an society/building in say Bangalore - why can’t BSNL pull up fibers there? Worst, they do have fibers in many buildings but plans are same as one gets in Indian village! What’s the point in capping speeds so badly when technically more speeds can be supported?
Private operators can’t do much in this regards. Most of them are doing good in mass deployments which comes into wireless for last mile and backbone capacity to support all this. But Govt. sitting on huge assets of BSNL can really bring change. How can a $30 android tablet bring change when we don’t have good communication infrastructure to support it? Hope we will be on faster connection next time you visit my blog! :)