17 Jun

NOFN and some thoughts

Today I came across a nicely written article in Business Standard on NOFN. Article’s title was “NOFN: A distant dream“. I must say it is one of good articles I have seen so far on the topic and most of other articles appeared to be factually incorrect and more like Press Releases of UPA.

Some key points from the Business Standard article:

According to a top official at the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), the project was conceptualised without a proper study. “NOFN would connect 2.5 lakh villages from the block level. But, no study was done on the details on optic fibre still the Block level, and how healthy those fibres are.
Experts say that the NOFN project does not include service offering. It is just about the laying of optic fibres. For end-to-end services, service providers will have to set up their own infrastructure at the gram panchayat level.
While the initial cost was projected at Rs 20,000 crore for the NOFN project, private companies will need to pump in much more than this amount to offer services to end customers.

These are precisely the points I have been raising with experts from industry from over an year. The whole BBNL project seem to have come as if UPA 2 was desperately trying to copy Australia’s NBN. The whole logic of copying NBN doesn’t makes sense at all because India has completely different challenge then that of Australia w.r.t broadband penetration and challenges. The very basic reason on why we (the Indians) tend to do such crappy projects is because of our dumb Indian bureaucracy who further work under pretty poor political  leadership.  Though with political leadership I am very hopeful as well this time under NDA Government but the way whole bureaucracy works it’s still a major concern.
Last week I was invited by XPRIZE foundation for a workshop on “Global Connectivity & Internet challenges” and there I got chance to interact with many good people (and some “not-so-good” people too). I got chance to meet one of advisors of Mr Sam Pitroda who recently got out of job. The guy was a young consultant, a completely non-technical person who approaches problems in “consultant kind off” approach and in the end does nothing other then being PR agent for Govt. indirectly. I asked him – What India will get out of BBNL when it’s just connecting gram Panchayats and there’s no clear plan at all on how people in rural areas would be connected in the end? His reply was just nothing.  I pushed him to comment on why Govt. made BSNL so terrible and he even didn’t accept that BSNL was terrible. That’s the problem with these non-technical consultants who don’t understand basics of connectivity and just can’t get anything done. In the end I was disgusted and had to end the conversation with him.

First and foremost some specific technical thoughts on whole project:

  1. Connecting graph Panchayats will not help. What is needed is last mile access network and BSNL does has significant chunk of copper based last mile right now. We can easily make use of it and reach out to a significant number of urban and suburban areas today given there’s a will power on Govt. side to do it and a kick to existing BSNL leadership.
  2. Loose on regulation and make ISP licenses free, yes just free and let village one man company to open ISPs and wire up real India.
  3. Make consistant policy on Rights of Way (RoI) across PAN India.
  4. Fix NIXI policies 🙂
  5. Keep in mind that though rural is a challenge and an even bigger problem is lack of broadband in key Tier 1 cities where there is a existing demand.

With that being said, after working in Indian (as well a bit International) industry for sometime. There are some key issues wrong in India.

What’s so wrong with India?

  1. Indian bureaucrats – from the day when they top UPSC exam till the date they retire, there’s a sense of achievement even though most of them achieve nothing in lifetime.
  2. Indian media loves to day dream about such project and showcases a completely wrong picture of such projects.
  3. Fact that if anything…just ANYTHING is done for “rural India” it feels good while anything for urban is bad is being carried over in India from over 60 years now and the situation goes worst during Congress led governments.

With (strong) hope that BJP will do much better, I will write a mail to current telecom minister highlighting these problems. Let’s see how it goes. Ending this port with 38th Episode of Clothesline covering interesting news coverage of our Indian media. 🙂

Back to work! 🙂
Disclaimer: Thoughts are completely personal and in no way reflect thoughts of my employer.

01 Feb

Sify broadband in rural areas


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:

  1. Company over estimated growth via Cybercafe chains. Cheap computers killed market of cyber cafe itself!
  2. 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.
  3. Low end users were stolen by cheap wireless internet via 2G (and now 3G).
  4. Company tried using pointed wireless links when technology was very new & yet to become advance with MIMO & beam forming.
  5. 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:

  1. Fast installation 1-2days Vs 30+ days for BSNL.
  2. Fast fix in case of downtime – in few hours Vs 2-3 days for BSNL.
  3. 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! 😉