India’s national broadband policy to be sent for Cabinet approval shortly

31 Mar 2011

India’s Telecom Commission, the apex decision-making body of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is expected to approve the proposed national broadband policy within the ‘next few weeks’, following which it will be forwarded to the Union Council of Ministers of India for approval. According to India’s Economic Times, the policy will enable the creation of broadband networks costing up to INR600 billion (USD13.2 billion) which will facilitate high speed data services and e-governance across the country. Communications minister Kapil Sibal meanwhile reportedly met with a number of operators this week to discuss the proposals.

As part of the proposals, the Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended the creation of a national broadband network with a view to achieving 160 million broadband connections in India by 2014. The TRAI claimed that its proposed ‘National Broadband Plan’ should be financed through the universal service obligation fund (USOF) and loans given by the government. The regulator’s recommendations followed the government’s failure to achieve its self-imposed target of 20 million broadband subscribers by 2010, with there being just over half that number, around 10.3 million, at that date. Further, under the plans the proposed fibre-optic network will be classified as a national resource, and as such is expected to be available with equal terms offered to all operators wishing to provide broadband services. In establishing the infrastructure the National Optical Fibre Agency (NOFA) will be created to oversee the network, with the new body to be 100% owned by the Central Government. NOFA, it is understood, will also establish networks in all 63 cities covered under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM, a massive city modernisation scheme launched by the Indian government in 2005), while state agencies will roll out networks and backhaul in all other urban regions, in addition to rural areas. A State Optical Fibre Agency (SOFA) meanwhile is expected to be formed in every state, with NOFA acting as the holding company with 51% equity, and the remaining 49% held by the respective state government.