TRAI sets out proposals to accelerate broadband development

1 Sep 2021

Industry watchdog the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has published its recommendations for improving the availability and quality of broadband access. The paper, dubbed ‘Roadmap to Promote Broadband Connectivity and Enhanced Broadband speed’, identifies a number of potential bottlenecks to the development of broadband services in India, covering matters such as infrastructure, licensing and expertise. The TRAI highlights twelve key proposals, the first of which suggests that the definition of broadband be updated to better reflect the increasing bandwidth demand of many internet-based services. Under the TRAI’s proposed system, download speeds of more than 2Mbps would be considered broadband – rather than the current 512kbps – and three new categories would be established to provide customers with greater clarity. Based on the potential downlink speeds that could be delivered to an individual customer, connections of more than 2Mbps but less than 50Mbps would be defined as ‘Basic Broadband’, between 50Mbps and 300Mbps would be ‘Fast Broadband’ and more than 300Mbps would be ‘Super-fast Broadband’.

Regarding licensing, the TRAI suggested that altering the definition of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) – the figure upon which most licence fees are paid – to exclude earnings from non-telecom services would encourage cable operators to provide broadband services alongside their existing offerings. In a similar vein, licensees should be offered target-linked incentives in the form of licence fee exemptions for expanding networks. Further network construction, meanwhile, should be facilitated by: the creation of a national portal for Right of Way (RoW) permissions to simplify and accelerate the rollout of telecom and other essential utilities infrastructure; establishing a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) to encourage states and union territories to complete RoW reforms; and incentivising the establishment of common ducts and posts and mandating the deployment of common ducts during the construction of roads, railway and water and gas pipelines. The TRAI also recommends that providers be required to map the locations of available passive infrastructure using a Geographic Information System (GIS) to facilitate sharing of infrastructure. Other proposals include the fiberisation of cellular networks using the BharatNet national broadband network, and the provision of subsidies to users in rural areas via a Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme.