India's RailTel partners cable TV operators to bridge digital divide

Summary:As part of its project to bring high-speed Internet to rural Tamil Nadu, the telecoms arms of the railways company will link up its optic fiber network with existing cable TV connections for last-mile connectivity.

The RailTel Corporation of India (RailTel), is partnering cable TV operators as part of its push to bring high-speed Internet to rural Tamil Nadu.

The telecommunications arm of Indian Railways will link up its optic fiber network to existing cable TV connections, with the last-mile connection taken care of by local cable operators, according to the Hindu. RailTel's network nearly mirrors the train network, passing through 5,000 stations across the country, covering all central business districts, towns and cities.

In Tamil Nadu, RailTel has 2,500 km of optic fiber cable and about 400 points of presence (PoPs). Under the agreement, local operators will bear the cost of laying the last mile cables between the PoPs with households, as well as provide the modem switch that separates TV signals from data traffic.

RailTel is also eyeing other southern markets such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, where it has over 10,000 km of optic fiber cable.

Its current product, RailWire, delivers Internet speeds ranging from 256 kbps to 10 Mbps to about 2,500 subscribers in 16 of the 32 districts in the state, the Hindu noted. "We are targeting expansion of the user base to 25,000 Internet connections in Tamil Nadu by the turn of this financial year," said S. Selvadurai, RailTel general manage, in the report.

Current tarrifs are "competitive", and start from 299 rupees (US$4.77) for 256 kbps to 1,099 rupees (US$17.56) for 10 Mbps per month, for a 40 GB data cap. Value-added services are being planned and will include e-ticketing and e-government services.

Separately, India is working on a a National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) that will establish telecommunication links, including Internet connectivity, in all villages by 2014.

Topics: Broadband, Fiber, India

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Loves caption contests, leisurely strolls along supermarket aisles and watching How It's Made. Ryan has covered finance, politics, tech and sports for TV, radio and print. He is also co-author of best seller "Profit from the Panic". Ryan is an editor at ZDNet's Asia/Singapore office.

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