WiMax, 3G to Dominate India's Broadband Future
Speaking here today at the Mobile Broadband Summit 2010, Goyal said the Indian government has set a target of having 100 million broadband connections (fixed or wireless, delivering more than 256 kbit/s) across India by 2014, a dramatic increase from the current 11 million connections (about 9.3 million fixed, and around 1.7 million 3G). (See Full House in New Delhi.)
And, he added, BSNL, which offers its services across the whole of the country except for the major cities of New Delhi and Mumbai -- the two 'circles' covered by fellow state-owned operator Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. (MTNL) -- is being tasked with delivering many of those connections.
The government is very keen on any level of broadband growth that will help India's population of 1.15 billion, and especially those in the rural areas, get connected to online and general communications services.
In a keynote address here today, P.J. Thomas, secretary of the Department of Telecommunications and chairman of the government's Telecom Commission, encouraged the attendees (about 150 people from Indian carriers and the vendor community) to "help us bring broadband to the far corners of the country… help us bring government services to the doorstep of the citizens."
The big hope is that, with 3G and BWA (Broadband Wireless Access) spectrum now allocated, multiple service providers will build new network capabilities that can deliver broadband connectivity to mobile handsets and devices (over 3G) and to data cards and modems (over the 2.3GHz BWA spectrum). (See India's 3G Auction Ends, Raises $14.6B and India's BWA Auction Ends in $8.2B Drama.)
Goyal said BSNL aims to help achieve the government's goals by boosting its fixed and wireless broadband bases.
It already has about 6 million DSL customers, and plans to upgrade its fixed broadband infrastructure to ADSL2+ to cover about 24 million of the installed copper loop base of 40 million. In addition, BSNL is rolling out fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) connections in more than 100 cities in India, but this will be targeted at business and high-end consumers only.
On the wireless side, BSNL is already offering CDMA EV-DO data cards for broadband connectivity, has launched its 3G services in 450 cities (and currently has around 1.3 million users), and is rolling out WiMax (802.16e) base stations, which can offer services over a 15-kilometer radius, in rural areas to provide connectivity to 600,000 villages around India.
To date, BSNL has deployed about 1,000 WiMax base stations, which are in an "advanced stage" of pre-commercial deployment, with plans to eventually deploy 7,000 more.
In urban areas, BSNL is working with franchise partners for WiMax rollout. Those partners use BSNL's 2.3GHz spectrum, backhaul, and passive tower infrastructure, but source, deploy and run the WiMax access networks themselves (and share their revenues with BSNL).
In six to eight years, Goyal, who is set to retire this month, believes India's broadband market will reach around 206 million connections, with 50-55 percent delivered by 3G, another 35-40 percent from WiMax, and the rest delivered by CDMA EV-DO and fixed lines. (See BSNL to Split Top Role.)
"We're aiming to significantly contribute to the government's broadband goals," stated Goyal, who believes the market can be stimulated through the availability of cheaper PCs and mobile/wireless devices, and the creation of online content in local and regional languages.
— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading