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

vishalg1 12/5/2012 | 3:07:51 PM
re: Indian Telcos Tackle Broadband Shortage You guys need better research on this article. Both Bharti Airtel and Reliance have been offering broadband access services for quite some time and have much more than 10,000 customers. Apart from these, other service providers also provide broadband access services.

BTW, Sterlite partnered with Huawei to bid on MTNL's broadband contract. So, this is essentially a win for Huawei.
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:07:50 PM
re: Indian Telcos Tackle Broadband Shortage With over 1B residents, any talk about 1-2M broadband subscribers in India seems futile. Fiber just does not scale. Most users will never see a fiber connection, using their broadband phones instead. Any bets what air interface wins?
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:07:50 PM
re: Indian Telcos Tackle Broadband Shortage With over 1B residents, any talk about 1-2M broadband subscribers in India seems futile. Fiber just does not scale.

I've never been to India but I've ridden my mountain bike to some remote places in the US. Most of them have had electrical wiring and even coax cable for TV. I'm sure many from previous generations, who built our electrical grid and cable infrastructures, heard arguments that wires did not scale. Even Tesla spent a lot of time on wireless energy distribution but to no avail. The reality, at least the one that I believe, is that wireless, while having value in mobility, does not scale w/respect Moore's law and bandwidth. Only fiber does that job.
jhonsk 12/5/2012 | 3:07:48 PM
re: Indian Telcos Tackle Broadband Shortage Folks what are we discussing about ??
Any application that would scale up to air interface and not to the optical ?????
India has a very well spread copper network even on the country side with the Public operator .. And since it hasnt been unbundled till now the onus is completely on the PTT to penetrate deep to the countryside .
In the Cities and Business Districts I know that fiber to the premise of the business and effluent localities is already a reality ..
And what broadband services are the operators offering ?? High Speed internet , IPTV , VoD , Gaming ?? All is possible in the available last mile copper ...
Dont think that in the near future India is ready for applications which would need fiber to home ... As of now only if the carriers can reach out to the tier 2 and tier 3 towns the no of subscribers will see a surge ..
myhui 12/5/2012 | 3:07:48 PM
re: Indian Telcos Tackle Broadband Shortage It's air interface that does not scale.

Fiber does scale.
goundan 12/5/2012 | 3:07:48 PM
re: Indian Telcos Tackle Broadband Shortage Is MG really another clueless Product Manager / Technology Exec that trolls LR or is she an alter ego for BobbyMax?

OFDM + MIMO = ~ near Shannon Limit. So unless you discover some kind of subspace or tachion pulse or some gobbledygook phenonmena that you could utilize for sending information, this is as good as the air interface is going to get for a long time. Sending more bits per user requires more bandwidth, preferably in the under 1GHz band for increased in-building penetration in countries like India where homes are built of RCC and bricks, unlike homes in the west that are primarily constructed of wood and gypsum board.

India will get its copper and fiber in due time, but will lead with WiMax air-interface for deployments as it provides coverage on the cheap. LTE is likely to be a non-starter in India given that Wimax would be well entrenched as a cheaper alternative by the time LTE shows up. Over time you will see FTTN style deployments in India spread over India, and leading to FTTP around the time cost plunges to $75 per household connected.

You have to factor in that CAPEX and power related OPEX is bigger concern for an operator in India, rather than the cost of pulling cables through neighborhoods. Fiber is cheap enough as it is, but given wage costs in India, pulling fiber is cheaper than the cost of fiber.

Now, where is my Metamucil?

materialgirl wrote:

Hopeless Fiber

With over 1B residents, any talk about 1-2M broadband subscribers in India seems futile. Fiber just does not scale. Most users will never see a fiber connection, using their broadband phones instead. Any bets what air interface wins?
brahmos 12/5/2012 | 3:07:43 PM
re: Indian Telcos Tackle Broadband Shortage as per WB data below, India with 1.1b people and
$1 TR GDP has just reached around $900 per capita
income last month and moved off the bottom tier
low income group.

there is usually a surge in consumption led growth
when a country gets into the middle group and I
am sure we will see something like the massive
5-6 mil subscriber ads / month seen in cellular
BUT after a few years.

thats because a cellphone cost $40 and a used one
even less - so everyone can get onboard very fast
and even for the poorest self-employed there is a
compelling economic advantage to having phones
- small shopkeepers, auto drivers, plumbers and
so on. the benefits of a dialup/bband conn are
less direct to the bottomline -- children will be
a keen demander of computers at home. but the
cheapest computer cost $400 so thats a 10X bigger
capex to get started.

but its going to happen on a mas scale in my
estimate around 5-10 yrs from now if the 9% growth is kept up.


Income group: Economies are divided according to 2005 GNI per capita, calculated using the World Bank Atlas method. The groups are: low income, $875 or less; lower middle income, $876 - $3,465; upper middle income, $3,466 - $10,725; and high income, $10,726 or more.

Gabriel Brown 12/5/2012 | 3:07:41 PM
re: Indian Telcos Tackle Broadband Shortage Re: Any bets what air interface wins?

History suggests that whatever "broadband" air interface is used will depend largely on spectrum allocation, which in turn depends on industrial policy.

It'll be interesting to see how India deals with this.

The position in China seems a little confused, what with TD-SCDMA being promoted as a home-grown alternative to 3G.
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