I’ll believe it when I see it, but that it’s up for discussion again brings with it hope for broadband in India: Business Standard reports, quoting unnamed sources that BSNL is considering opening up its last mile to private players. This means that a private company can provide broadband connections to your home using BSNLs existing wireline connection to your home, without having to spend on laying a separate cable. One of the major issues is for private companies to seek a few thousand permissions (mild exaggeration) for digging roads for laying a separate cable, from the government, housing societies etc.

Is It Needed Anymore?

But is the last mile needed anymore? Three or four years ago, at the height of the telecom hype, this would probably have transformed broadband in India, but I’m not so sure if that is still the case. Telecom operators like Reliance Communications and Tata Indicom already provide Fixed WiMax broadband connections, and would they spend on upgrading the existing legacy copper infrastructure? India’s broadband growth has been snail-paced at best, adding between 150,000-200,000 per month on an average, while wireline connections have been declining. The country reported 36.76 Million at the end of January 2010, a keeping with the trend of a steady decline.

Of course, BSNL probably needs to cut costs and bring in the some money from it’s wireline business, given the loss that their “non-cellular’ business has incurred in the last fiscal:

Will The Franchise Model Work?

BSNL, according to the report, intends to appoint a franchisee for the broadband services. BSNL and MTNL have tried franchise models for IPTV and VoIP in India, but it’s appears to have been tightly controlled on the broadband side, and the service quality so poor that these are yet to take off.

I’ve struggled with MTNLs broadband connectivity for two weeks, and it’s taken over 40 phone calls to several people at MTNL  for someone to look into the matter, and another few calls for it to be fixed. Managing customers, infrastructure and servers is not MTNLs strong point: I can vouch for that. I’m sceptical about whether a deal where BSNL manages the infrastructure and someone else manages the marketing and customer service, will work out.

We’ll keep an eye out for the exact structuring of the franchising agreement, if BSNL indeed plans to go through with it. In the meantime, curb your enthusiasm. I am.

What’s your take?

BSNL Inflating Subscriber Numbers, Says Director: Report