Millennium Post

DoT mulls providing Internet via MSOs, cable operators

Aiming to increase broadband penetration in smaller cities, the DoT is planning to use Multiple System Operators and cable operators to provide broadband connectivity.

The idea is that cable TV provides last mile connectivity in almost all the tier I as well as II and III cities, barring a few areas, and this can provide cable operators with a new business model as also increase broadband penetration, a senior official said.

The Broadband Policy 2004 had also suggested that cable TV network be used as a franchisee network of the service provider for provisioning broadband services, he added.

Another official said that an initial round of talks on this issue has taken place last month, and in February between the Department of Telecom (DoT) official and a couple of top cable TV services firms, which have evinced interest in being a part of this plan. The government plans to provide broadband connectivity across the country and it has to work on many fronts, the official said, adding that one is National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) which will cover the villages, and the other will be to ensure Internet connectivity in cities and small towns. 

Cable operators will go to almost all cities and towns, but there are some inaccessible areas like hilly regions where they might not venture due to capital costs and low revenue issues, said the official. Government plans to utilise Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) to provide incentives to ensure coverage in such areas through viability gap funding, the official said. 

USOF is also funding the ambitious NOFN project, which aims to connect 2.5 lakh gram panchayats with broadband by December 2016 with an estimated cost of Rs 30,000 crore. According to latest data from sectoral regulator Trai, the number of wired broadband subscribers rose marginally from 15.23 million in November 2014 to 15.32 million in December.

Fixed wireless subscribers including WiFi, Wi-Max, VSAT and point-to-point radio remained flat at 0.43 million during the same period. 

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