All fixed line operators will have to share their last mile copper infrastructure, which are over five years old, with other service providers. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has come out with 12 broad recommendations in order to increase the Internet and broadband penetration in the country which include methods to be adopted for unbundling local loop, fiscal measures and other policy initiatives.
To start with, if the recommendations are accepted, the fixed line operators have to specifically choose between the two methods of unbundling — shared unbundling and bit stream access. They also have to suggest the terms and conditions like pricing for unbundling, which will be reviewed by Trai.
In simple words, local loop unbundling is the method as per which the owners of the last mile copper (primarily the incumbent) are usually mandated to share their infrastructure with other licensed service providers wanting to provide broadband services.
Under shared unbundling, competitive providers have access to either voice or data portion of the line. Under bit stream access, the local loop operator installs high speed access links to its customers and allows competitive providers access to this link.
The regulator has broadly identified eleven main hurdles to growth that need to be addressed like high price for broadband, high cost of equipment, high taxes and duties, lack of locally relevant content among others. “Prices for broadband in India are 1200 times higher than in Korea,” said Trai chairman Pradip Baijal. Broadband has been defined as an always-on data connection with 256 kilo bits per second of data rate.
In order to increase broadband penetration via very small aperture satellites and direct-to-home, Trai has suggested open sky policy, removal of various restrictions on size of antenna and throughput. It has also suggested reductions in licence and spectrum fees. Moreover, the authority has called for delicensing of spectrum bands used for wireless broadband technologies like Wi-Fi and WiMax.
“To solve problems faced by telcos while obtaining right of way, we have suggested that there should be GIS mapping of states and that government should legislate parameters for telcos’ access to privately owned buildings and communities,” said Trai member Dr DPS Seth.
Trai has also suggested steps to strengthen the National Internet Exchange and bring down the international bandwidth prices.
The regulator has called for many fiscal measures that include reduction of duties on inputs and finished goods, exemption to ISPs from service tax payments for five years, among others.
Additionally, Trai has called for creation of a position of project director (e-governance) at secretary level.