Blog Post

India Broadband Report, March 25, 2005

By Dr. Abhishek Puri

Real nirvana he can find, but Dr. Abhishek Puri is waiting for broadband nirvana. Hopefully one day he will buy a Mac and surf at 100 megabits per second. Meanwhile, he will suffer slow speeds and keep us entertained and informed. This is a once a week column. – Om

Broadband Madness: After making its geeks go through broadband equivalent of chinese water torture, Indian telecom and broadband providers have suddenly decided its time to open the pipes a little wider. What prompted them on a nation wide roll out now? Two reasons — the landline and wireless voice revenues are going south faster than hopes for a cool summer. They have realized data is the only way to survive. Ironically, the internet service provider is open to 100 percent foreign investment, and ISP licenses to be had for less than a penny. Still no takers! (Sky Dayton , are you listening!)

Less than 256 kbps is not broadband: In what is supposed to be far reaching decision by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) it mandated that speeds less than 256 kbps are not to be marketed as Broadband. It was seen that companies like Sify, Airtel and Tata’ s were marketing connections of 32,64 and 128 kbps as broadband. Would this have any effect on the telecom companies? I have my doubts. Post TRAI’s order, Tata’s were quick to add that 128 kbps should not be counted as broadband but refused to upgrade the speeds. For Airtel that offers it’s services as Airtel Broadband, there is a lacuna here. They would still market their slow 64kbps and above under the same brand name. It is the end consumer who looses out in the bargain. I believe that much more prudent step would have been to ban these telecom companies from selling anything less than 256 kbps.

Bollywood on Demand: Since Indian cable sector is disorganized and consumers have been weaned on flat rate monthly fees, premium channels and video on demand did not make much economic sense in India. But ADSL changes all that. ADSL gives an excellent platform for the introduction of the streaming video and content. Only getting content is not that easy even for state owned BSNL which is struggling to get TV networks on board. Reliance, apparently is facing similar challenges in getting entertainment channels on board which might be the real reason for their nation wide triple-play roll out.

Indian Telecoms head to the hinterlands: Like rest of the world Indian telecom and broadband providers are chasing the urban consumer, ignoring the rural consumers and smaller towns where demand is growing in parallel with economic affluence. Despite the madatory requirements in their licences, telecos have refused to address the crying need for infrastructure there. Being risk averse, they chose to concenterate on the bigger cities where they could ramp up numbers. But not all is lost, and there might be some positive developments for the rural India. TRAI has set up Universal Service Obligation fund where in the operators had to give 5% of their revenues to the same. Part of the funding was done from the Consolidated Fund of India (a black hole as far as tax payer’s money is concerned). Despite the financial incentives, it was only last week that BSNL, Reliance and Tata’s won the contracts for setting up infrastructure in the underserved areas. It is convienient to forget that BSNL was mandated to do just that, though it waited nearly 50 years to get around to meet its obligations.

Call Center Cool: The big towns are too expensive to live, and as a result the call centers are moving to tiny towns like Mohali (Read Dell-jit) Wipro is now looking at Calcutta (given that commies have turned over a new leaf and embracing capitalism. It means folks in these towns would have nice disposable incomes which means they can afford to buy a PC and broadband.

Fiber in every village: A recent Economic survey says that Optic Fibre had reached every nook and corner of the country. BSNL owns major part of the same.

15 Responses to “India Broadband Report, March 25, 2005”

  1. It will take just one operator to offer truly unlimited broadband connection at ‘broadband’ speed.

    All others will follow suit.

    Sometimes I have a feeling the govt. or other concerned authorities are taking a back seat and continue to let these horrible broadband operator fleece the consumer.
    I dont know why they are doing that.

    The current mood in the ISP market is to earn while you can. When an operator made a breakthrough, that will be competitive times.

    I feel indian consumer takes what is offered. We need to unite against such exploitation.

  2. George can you tell me the tweak from reliance.
    So far im very satisfied with reliance.

    Getting about 150-170 kbps with Rs.650/pm for 1 GB data limit. (declared speed is 144kbps)
    My usage goes about 700-800 MB only.

    Same technology from Tata never showed me what 3 digit figure looks like.

    An eye opener from my fellow country men and the robbers (telecom cos).
    1. T-Online in Germany was giving 768 kbps for download and 128 kbps for upload.
    and all this for 25 Euro per month, and unlimited data.

    Comes out to be 1.8 Rs. per kbps per month for unlimited data.
    Do your calculation and you can understand what this figure is like.

    2. And now those 768 kbps days are gone. minimum speed is 1 mbps now a days.

    3. All their details were in German and still i know exactly what i was paying for (I didnt knew German). So you can understand there were no gimmicks, everything was transparent.
    here we sell 64kbps callking broadband.

    I just talk about a country which was completely destroyed just 60 year back…and we had all most all out population intact with infrastructure.

  3. Tata Indicomm blatantly giving TRAI the finger ? Check out the broadband tariffs page at

    When they start talking about unlimited broadband, the speeds are listed at 64 and 128 kbps. Blech !!

    I personally use a Reliance wireless conn, tweaked to run at 225 kbps (230400bps under linux ;) ) and subscribed to the platinum plan Rs 1500 unlimited ….hehehe pretty sweet deal.

  4. DocBatra

    Another thing.. Since Internet radio is not a much used phenomenon in india, but is one of the better pleasures of having a decent speed, always on connection, my sify connection is not that bad. Internet radio takes up a massive amount of data transfer.. As much as 17mb in 10 mins.. So you need to have an unlimited downloads option. But here again most stations transmit at around 56kbps, so the 64kb connection is useless unless you limit all other internet activity. At least a 128kbps connection is needed.

  5. DocBatra

    Well, i don’t know about Reliance and BSNL, but Sify sucks!
    The local agents charge another Rs100 over the stipulated charges in the name of maintenance charges. And the connection is almost always having some kind of problem. All this for a measly 64kbps! Anyway its at least unlimited downloads. Though there is some stupid scheme (unmentioned anywhere of course, but my agent told me), that the speed will go down to 24 kbps if my daily data transfer crosses 100mb. What rubbish!
    Waiting for real Broadband nirvana..

  6. jason

    Mr. prabhu i too have video streaming activated.

    Can u please tell me whether we will be charged extra.

    Please reply as soon as possible..

  7. prabhu

    i got Bsnl and it has the streaming video activated.and the bytes transfer are more than 50 KB to 300KB.i dont know whether this will be charged extra.but currently my plan is in unlimited upto june31 as stated by plan is basic Rs500

  8. Mr Enthu

    I am desparately waiting for that day when a comman man like me will get net connection within Rs 300/- that means equal to one months mobile bill with facilities as unlimited browsing (and downloads ofcourse).
    any sugestions

  9. This is the real tragedy of “broadband”. It is still a fledgling, trying to get it’s feet on ground and would be immature to write off. What I am waiting for is Reliance who would change the face of content delivery in India. VOD would become a reality in that case.
    And yes, the download limits suck which defeats the whole purpose of broadband, if we can call it so.Still, an effort has been made.

  10. Hrishikesh

    Broadband with Limited Data Transfer?

    I think that is insanity. All the broadband schemes offered by MTNL/BSNL, while are fast, have limited data transfers, like a GB per month. I think this completely defeats the purpose of having a broadband connection.

    On my perma-dialup line, I download a GB in four days or less, and as compared to a “broadband” solution, am pretty happy about it.

    Of course, I would more than love to get a real unlimited broadband connection. Maybe, I will take a job at an ISP then!

  11. i think it is another way for the market niches to evolve there. in many ways if you think about it, VoD is perfect way to expand the art house film business. affluent consumers love those art-type movies and can afford to go for VoD services. I think there might be a business model here for phone companies who are willing to back indid film makers.

  12. Ron Piovesan

    India has a stronger domestic film market than any other country, even the US. And Bollywood films are especially of interest to those less affluent in India, those who do not speak English (ie, 75% of the country) and those whose stations in life mean that they desperately seek the escapism of Bollywood pictures. True, than can afford very, very little. But by their sheer numbers (over 800m ?) they must be an attractive market for some telco and/or cable company to want to roll out VOD services to them. Surely, hundreds of millions of Bollywood-addicted villagers must be an attractive market for some BB operator.