Sify is one of really interesting companies. One time pioneer of Indian internet market via chain of cyber cafes. Good old days. Present situation of Sify in consumer market is not significant. Latest earing figures clearly state company is moving towards enterprise segment.
Company is quite aggressive in enterprise segment offerings specially datacenters & corporate leased lines.
Is consumer market really over for Sify or there’s still some hope?
Well, consumer broadband market isn’t really over! Infact this is the main market which is yet to explode in India!
These are the factors which went against Sify:
- Company over estimated growth via Cybercafe chains. Cheap computers killed market of cyber cafe itself!
- Company failed to capture high end consumer segment and lost it to DSL players like BSNL/MTNL & Airtel. Quality of services was way too low (due to franchise model) adopted for distribution via last mile cable operators.
- Low end users were stolen by cheap wireless internet via 2G (and now 3G).
- Company tried using pointed wireless links when technology was very new & yet to become advance with MIMO & beam forming.
- Indian regulation which prohibits VoIP-PSTN connectivity again put them on back seat against main telcos like BSNL & Airtel.
Despite of these issues, I still see a huge potential for market which Sify tried to capture. Taking example of this village Radaur (where I am staying) - I can see over 20 connections to small computer shops, cell phone shops etc from Sify broadband. This is very interesting as a private broadband player is in village besides Govt. telecom player BSNL. Infact I can see lot of small shops giving priority to Sify over BSNL. I tried asking them for reason and here’s list of those:
- Fast installation 1-2days Vs 30+ days for BSNL.
- Fast fix in case of downtime - in few hours Vs 2-3 days for BSNL.
- No issues of breaking of cable (as in case of BSNL)
Well, these all issues are quite true. Most of these shops have subscribed to 256Kbps to 512Kbps plans and they work pretty well (as per my tests). Here Sify is using a “point to multi-point wireless network” to reach last mile. They run last mile over 60 degree sector antenna located in front of Radaur bus stand pointed towards village. Here’s the picture:
and here’s one of end user CPE antenna’s pointing towards it:
Unfortunately 1st picture isn’t clear.
It has small antenna with two parabolic antenna’s on top - one towards Yamunanagar city & other towards Ladwa village. It uses high end frequency band of 5.8Ghz which has over 40Mhz of bandwidth in free WiFi spectrum for tower backhaul. This sort of backhual works pretty well since one can get over 100Mbps for 40-50Km of distances (in this case Yamunanagar district is 20Km off from here) where they feed core network from leased fibers and run a MPLS on top of it. Though backhual capacity of such towers is quite high and for small village (with less users) - even last mile shared sector antenna too isn’t a problem. What surprises me is that - still at the end of day Sify offers similar or worst plans as compared to BSNL. Reason remains bit of backbone bandwidth costs, high amount of commission taken by middle re-sellers etc. Sify offcourse failing here to realize big market and capturing it with good marketing followed by massive deployment. At this point low end market will be again grabbed by cell phone players with 2G/3G while high end will sooner or later go to BSNL or other telcos (if last mile unbundle happens) since DSL is way more scalable then this technology apart from fact that BSNL won’t have any issue in backbone (when they have 104 pair fiber landing in village exchange!). Unless last mile unbundle happens, there’s hardly any technology which can provide wired broadband equivalent speeds for this network.
With hope for good future of broadband in India, time for me to wash my clothes! ;)