The Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has unveiled proposals for the construction of a national broadband network costing around INR600 billion (USD13 billion), The Hindu reports. In the regulator’s ‘National Broadband Plan’ it advocates the construction of an open access fibre-optic network to connect all cities, towns and villages with a population of more than 500, with funding to come via the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) and a loan from the government. In addition, the TRAI also called for a state-run agency, the National Optical Fibre Agency (NOFA), to be set up to oversee the project, while a State Optical Fibre Agency (SOFA) would be created for every state, with 51% held by the NOFA and the remaining equity held by the respective state government.
In the first phase of network deployment all cities, urban areas and gram pachayats (local governments at the village or small town level) would be covered by 2012, while the second phase, which would be completed by 2013, would see the infrastructure connect all remaining locales with more than 500 inhabitants. The network itself would be capable of supporting downlink speeds of up to 10Mbps in 63 of the country’s metros and larger cities by 2014 (i.e. those covered under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission city modernisation scheme). Meanwhile, speeds of up to 4Mbps would be on offer in a further 352 cities and the remaining areas would have access to download rates of 2Mbps.
Commenting on the proposals, the TRAI noted: ‘At present in India, the penetration of broadband is 0.8% as against the teledensity of 60.99% as of September 2010. The number of broadband connections is only 100,000 as against a target of 200,000 by the year 2010. Therefore, there is an urgent need to facilitate rapid growth of broadband.’ The TRAI’s National Broadband Plan envisages the provision of 75 million broadband connections (17 million xDSL, 30 million cable and 28 million wireless broadband) by 2012, rising to 160 million (22 million DSL, 78 million cable and 60 million wireless broadband) two years later.