Indian Telcos Tackle Broadband Shortage
Expanding broadband coverage is a major focus for India's telcos this year, but government-run carriers Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. (MTNL) are trying to get a handle on a large backlog of orders for broadband subscriptions.
MTNL has awarded a $41.64 million contract to Sterlite Technologies Ltd. to design, develop, and implement a broadband and metro Ethernet network. The network will provide coverage in the cities of Mumbai and New Delhi, with capacity for 500,000 subscribers by 2009. (See Sterlite Wins MTNL Contract.)
Sterlite, which is shifting from a fiber optic cable supplier to a broadband access player, reportedly beat out ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763), Nokia Networks , and UTStarcom Inc. (Nasdaq: UTSI) for the deal. Sterlite has had previous business from the carrier, helping to build an MPLS core for the network last year.
As for BSNL, it's getting an initial 1 million broadband modems from Australian vendor Arasor Corp. , which is making its debut in India's broadband market. Arasor will build the modems through a partnership with Indian semiconductor firm SemIndia Inc.
The Indian government has declared 2007 the "Year of Broadband," but its carriers have been less than prepared to sign up new subscribers. Nearly halfway through the year, MTNL has a waiting list of more than 20,000 in Mumbai and New Delhi.
BSNL and MTNL account for the majority of broadband subscribers in India, as they have by far the most extensive last-mile networks in the country. Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL), the country's largest mobile operator, launched broadband services six months ago and has around 10,000 customers, while Reliance Communications Ltd. (RCom) has yet to introduce broadband services.
Local press reports indicate that in some regions, BSNL stopped providing new connections as much as five months ago as demand outstripped its equipment supplies. In Chennai, for example, it recently stocked up on 20,000 broadband ports and modems to clear a backlog of 6,000 registrations. In Kerala, it's ordered 100,000 ports and plans to begin installing equipment next month.
In March, the carrier ordered DSLAMs from UTStarcom to provide capacity for 1.3 million ADSL2+ lines as it gears up to roll out IPTV services over its network. (See UTStar Deploys ADSL2+ and BSNL Preps for IPTV.) BSNL launched its "Multiplay" service in the city of Pune in mid-March, and plans to extend coverage to cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Kolkata.
The latest figures released yesterday by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) show just 2.43 million broadband connections in India at the end of April. MTNL's target is to add 1 million new broadband subscribers during this financial year, while BSNL plans to add 5 million. The goal is for India to have 20 million broadband users by 2010.
— Nicole Willing, Reporter, Light Reading