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 Network sharing: TRAI proposes, BSNL differs

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Registration date : 2008-03-15

PostSubject: Network sharing: TRAI proposes, BSNL differs   Tue 8 Apr - 16:58

NEW DELHI: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman Pradip Baijal today expressed fear that Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL)'s policy of not sharing its network with other operators to provide broadband connectivity across the country would help private players.

He said this policy would give an advantage to initiatives such as ITC's e-Chaupal and TeNet's nLog over the public sector.

Baijal pointed at the example of Andhra Pradesh, which launched an alternative, cheaper broadband fibre optic network through private-public partnership after BSNL had quoted high rates for its fibre cable network.

He was speaking at the second Broadband Tech India 2005 conference organized by Bharat Exhibitions here.

However, BSNL director (Finance) SD Saxena said BSNL could not share its network just because it had one. It would not be able bear the loss incurred by sharing its network with others.

“We have sunk a lot of money in building this infrastructure. That sort of investment is a nightmare”, he asserted.

Saxema demanded USO funding for BSNL to enable the organization to share its infrastructure on the basis of marginal cost concept.

Baijal countered Saxena by drawing example from British Telecom. He pointed out that the more the network grew, the more the company's infrastructure value went up, as in the case of BT.

After initial resistance to sharing, BT was now retailing its network to any operator wanting to use it, he pointed out.

Baijal also reminded BSNL that the next generation networks would fundamentally be sharing networks. He said that only in a competitive environment would BSNL be able to raise its penetration of the network from 2 per cent over 50 years to two per cent every year.

Earlier at the conference, UTStarcom MD Vijay Yadav, AirTel's chief technology officer Jagbir Singh and Internet Service Providers Association president Sanjay Dwivedi expressed grave concern at the slow progress in broadband subscriber base growth despite all the hype about it at the policy level.

They pointed out that not even one million subscribers could be added in 2005 against the targeted growth of three million subscribers. This was owing to the policy framework that did not allow the sharing of the copper line that was available only with the BSNL, they blamed.

Yadav suggested adopting a target of providing 2 Mbps connectivity at two dollars (Rs. 100) per month.

Currently, broadband connectivity of 256 Kbps costs around Rs. 500 per month but was set to come down to Rs. 200 per month, according to experts.

RailTel managing director K K Bajpeyee, meanwhile, offered the utilization of railways fibre optic ring that could be extended to over 40 per cent of the population with broadband. However, Baijal suggested RailTel to introduce a cheaper rate for sharing this fibre.

The regulator also regretted that most of the expensive 70,000 km fibre lines had remained unused.

According to Saxena, the stifled growth of broadband was due to the subscriber number not reaching the critical mass on the one hand, and the non-availability of popular content on the other.

He also pointed out that the bandwidth costs in broadband continued to be very high due to inadequate National Internet Exchanges and even inadequate use of the available NIXIs by the Internet Service operators.

ISPAI president Dwivedi said that only 158 Internet operators were in actual operation in the country despite providing license to 700 operators.
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