Wired and wireless broadband in India, the next big thing

Fiber Optic connectivity across India to provide broadband to 160 million houses, Qualcomm allowed to invest in a broadband venture with two Indian companies. Reliance and Qualcomm testing 4G networks and the WiMax Forum saying India is a huge market.
Written by Manan Kakkar, Contributor

While mobile communication (voice+text) has seen incredible growth in India, broadband connectivity hasn’t been taken as seriously. Last year, India announced a National Broadband Plan with the intention of connecting close to 160 million households compared to an estimated 10.3 Million connections as of now.

The National Broadband Plan, proposed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is an estimated Rs. 600 Billion investment (~$13 Billion). As part of the NBP, TRAI hopes to have 60 Million wireless broadband, 22 Million DSL and 78 Million Cable Internet users, by 2014. Ambitious.

The plan outlines setting up of State Optical Fiber Agencies (SOFA) in each state that will be under the state government and a National Optical Fiber Agency (NOFA). Speeds of upto 10 Mbps downlink are expected in cities. Retaining the Telecommunication and IT ministry after the cabinet reshuffle, Kapil Sibal said that a blue print for the National Broadband Plan will be in place by March 31st.

Last year, auctions for Broadband wireless were conducted which raised close $8.5 Billion. Qualcomm Inc. and Infotel Broadband made winning bids. Reliance Industries bought Infotel and Qualcomm has now been given the green light to invest up to $770 Million in their Indian Broadband Wireless Access venture. Qualcomm secured Kerala, Haryana including the crucial Delhi, Mumbai. As per regulations, Qualcomm roped in two Indian companies – Tulip Telecom and Global Holdings with 13% stake each.

Both Qualcomm and Reliance have tested 4G networks in Gurgaon and Mumbai respectively. According to TRAI Chairman JS Sarma, India might see commercial launch of 4G by mid 2012. Talking to the press, JS Sarma said, “I expect 4G to come in India next year. TRAI will bring out a consultation paper on 4G in the middle of this year.”

With talks and tests about 4G, the WiMax Forum has been quick to respond claiming that there is market for WiMax in India. Marketing Director for the WiMax Forum, Declan Byrne says both technologies can coexist in India. He said, “We are not threatened by the (TD-LTE) technology. We are actually delivering mobile broadband, while TD-LTE is still under trial. My request to the TD-LTE camp is -- this is a big market, let us cooperate to serve it well. There is room for both technologies. I feel good about where we are, where we are going.”

Hopefully the pitiful state of broadband in India will undergo a transformation for the better.

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