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India Reclassifies Broadband As 512kbps, 6 Yrs After Dayanidhi Maran Wanted 2mbps

A notification from the India’s Department of Telecommunications on 18th July 2013 reclassified the term ‘Broadband’ as referring to connections that have the capability of a minimum download speed of 512kbps, the telecom regulator TRAI’s monthly telecom subscribers report mentions, stating that as per the notification:

“Broadband is a data connection that is able to support interactive services including Internet access and has the capability of the minimum download speed of 512 Kbps to an individual subscriber from the point of presence (PoP) of the service provider intending to provide broadband service”.

Accordingly, the TRAI has said that as per its classification, the minimum download speed has been increased from 256 Kbps to 512 Kbps, and from this October 2013 onwards, service providers have to report only those wireline Internet subscribers with at least 512kbps as ‘broadband’.

Consequently, the number of broadband connections in India has come down to 14.91 million connections (the rest are classified as “Internet” connections). In May 2013, India had 15.3 million broadband connections, but that was as per the old definition, and would have included connections between 256kbps and 512kbps. Note that the 14.91 million connections number is on the basis of data from 105 of 153 ISPs, with old data being used for 48 ISPs.

Not enough: Dayanidhi Maran Had Wanted Broadband = 2mbps in 2007

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We’d like to remind the Department of Telecommunications, and recent ministers A. Raja, Kapil Sibal and Milind Deora, what utter failures they have been when it comes to enabling the growth of wireline broadband in this country.

It makes me feel old say this, but does anyone remember Dayanidhi Maran, and his tenure as Telecom Minister?

Back in 2007, Maran had wanted to reclassify broadband as 2 mbps*, and talked about using BSNL to change the benchmarks, in order to force private players to follow suit. Maran left the government after that, and was replaced by A. Raja. The rest is history: in terms of the 2G scam, the Aakash Tablet. We’re still waiting for the completion of the rollout of broadband to villages, which Maran, in 2007 had said, had the following targets:

Broadband connectivity to one lakhs Community Service Centres (CSC) covering 20,000 CSCs by ADSL by September 2007; 1000 blocks by wireless broadband by December 2007 and the remaining 5000 blocks by wireless broadband with USO support by June 2008 would be provided

The plan in 2007 was to try for 20 million wireline broadband connections by 2010, a target which the Indian government has failed to meet even three years later: Today, BSNL (with 66.8% of the broadband market) no longer sets the benchmarks, Airtel (the second largest ISP, with 8.8% of the broadband market) tries to maximize revenue using data caps (calling it “Fair Usage”).

While I’m not saying that Maran might not have had his faults (I only started covering this sector towards the end of his tenure), as a minister, he set the tone for the industry to follow, and his strategy of pushing BSNL to change the benchmarks was a great way to push private players to follow.

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Today, India’s only policy on increasing broadband penetration in the country appears to be a plan to take optical fibre to villages, which it has been taking about since 2007, and while no sops appear to exist for ISP’s in the urban and semi urban market.

*Note: That appears to be a truncated version of my post at Paidcontent.org. I left ContentSutra (now merged into Paidcontent.org) to start MediaNama in 2008.

Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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