India's government-led Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has awarded an $86 million contract to Vanu India and Himachal Futuristic Communications Limited (HFCL) to set up rural telecom services in the north east of the country.
The five-year contract includes surveying, planning, supply, installation, testing, commissioning and maintenance. Some 924 solar-powered basestations will be set up as part of the network deployment. These basestations will be manufactured by HFCL using Vanu's technology.
The aim of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) is to bring connectivity to unconnected areas, especially those with no electrical or telecom grid that can provide power or backhaul.
Providing connectivity in rural areas has been a huge challenge for service providers in India. Facing low average revenue per user (ARPU), and the high cost of network deployment and management, service providers have struggled to address needs in poorer non-urban communities.
Yet more than 60% of India's citizens still live in rural areas. Their aspirations are growing, and they could potentially represent a huge addressable market for operators, especially as new technologies help to lower deployment costs. India's northeast is mostly rural, and a geographically challenging terrain, making it tough for operators to offer connectivity. BSNL, as a government-owned service provider, is committed to providing connectivity at the lowest possible tariffs in difficult-to-reach areas, too.
"Vanu's value is to continue its focus on the software radio technology to enable localization of the ecosystem for high-end product development, manufacturing and services to address India's cellular network requirements," says Sanjay Bakaya, Vanu's managing director, in a press release.
India's urban market is now saturated, forcing telcos to come up with solutions for the rural market if they are to grow their businesses. Cut-throat competition in cities and towns gives telcos yet another reason to head for the hinterland. The next few months are likely to see more telcos come up with innovative business models and technologies to meet the connectivity needs of rural India.
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading