The Tamil Nadu (TN) government has selected Vodafone via a tender process for its subsidized fiber Internet service that will be offered under the ‘Arasu Cable TV Corporation’ brand, an IT department notice from the TN government said. Currently, Vodafone’s leased lines are present in 2,577 households who are now able to connect to the Internet via the state sponsored fiber project.
TN government said that it has additionally floated more tenders, inviting applications from interested entities (mostly telcos and ISPs) to partner with Arasu Cable for providing Internet services. The state claims to have received 392 applications, and has selected 170 applicants for deploying Internet services in 24,750 new households across the state. Along with fiber Internet, TN govt is also providing IPTV services and WiFi.
On the cable TV side, Arasu Cable claims to have 70.52 lakh subscribers as of May this year, compared to 4.94 lakh subscribers reported in 2011. The cable TV service also counts 26,378 local cable TV operators.
Arasu Cable services and tariffs
Arasu Cable TV Corporation was set up in May 2011 with an initial investment of Rs 3 crore and was later renamed as ‘Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation Ltd’ (TACTV). The state-owned digitization project provides 4 kinds of subsidized services:
- Fiber Internet: The TN government started rolling out subsidized connections to all households in the state back in March 2016. The service charge Rs 299 per month for a 2mbps connection with a 5GB monthly FUP limit, incrementally increasing the prices for more data or faster connections. The most expensive plans costs Rs 1599 per month for a 20 mbps connection with a 150GB monthly limit. More on this here.
- IPTV and Cable TV: As of now, Arasu cable TV is transmitting 90-100 channels at a subsidized cost of just Rs 70 per month. The service currently provides both analog and digital signals to the local cable TV operators in Chennai metro area. Arasu Cable TV also received a Digital Addressable System (DAS) license from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) in April this year, signalling that the state will look at digitizing all cable TV operations. It has floated tenders to acquire digitized Set-Top-Boxes as well.
- Free WiFi and broadband at schools: Arasu Cable also has free and paid WiFi facilities in public spaces, schools, etc. The Amma WiFi Zone was set up in September last year with 50 WiFi hotspots in 50 schools initially. The state set aside Rs 10 crore for the WiFi project and another Rs 7.3 crore for opening 45 new Amma WiFi Zones in Chennai. Free broadband will also be provided to 316 schools in educationally backwards blocks in the state.
- Arasu e-Sevai centres: These are similar to e-Seva centres present in taluks, villages, districts, etc. and are headed by the state government. e-Sevai centres broadband connectivity, utility bill payment service, Aadhaar services, buying school textbooks and also provides information regarding various state welfare schemes.
Arasu Cable tie ups
The state project has tie ups with different entities which are currently helping Arasu Cable roll out its services; these include:
- Tie up with RailTel for broadband and IPTV: In September 2014, Arasu Cable had partnered with Internet Service Provider RailTel Corporation of India to offer broadband services to its customer base. An initial pilot project was conducted in Vellore with about 1000 subscribers being provided access to broadband services through cable TV connections.
- Tie up with Government of India for BharaNet: Arasu Cable also has a tie up with the central government entities like Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) which operates BharatNet project. The MoU was signed in April 2017. As per the terms of the MoU, optical fibre cables will be laid aerially along the power lines between the Block headquarters and village panchayats. Once the roll out is complete, Arasu Cable is expected to use bandwidth from BharatNet for its subsided connections.