'Only broadband will build the new India'

CIOL Bureau
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NEW DELHI, INDIA India's top political leadership, dealing with telecom and IT broadband, re-instated that they believe broadband is going to be the next revolution after mobile phones. And, also that broadband penetration will be one of the building blocks for national development.


Speaking at a seminar, organized by ISPAI (Internet Service Providers of India) and CMAI (Communication Multimedia and Infrastructure) Association of India, Sam Pitroda, adviser to the Indian Prime Minister on Public Information, Infrastructure and Innovations, Milind Deora as well as Sachin Pilot, both ministers of state for communications and IT agreed that broadband will play a key role in India's ambition to be an economic and cultural powerhouse.

Also Read: Govt aims 250 mn broadband connections by 2012

On the changing telecom scenario in India, Pitroda said, "The first phase of the telecom revolution in India was about mobile telephony and it is about to end. The second phase will be about broadband and it is about to begin." Known as the father of the Indian telecom revolution, Pitroda said he expects broadband to push India's GDP by almost one to two per cent".


The reassuring thing that Pitroda said was that it was the Government of India's duty to use broadband as a tool to  reduce disparity among the 'haves and have nots' in the country. He said that broadband will create millions of jobs in India.

The government's thrust is actually backed with lots of action. For instance, the National Knowledge Network that is being set-up will have 1,500 nodes that will connect all universities, colleges and research labs with a 40 GB network for multi-disciplinary collaborations.

Out of this plan, 300 nodes are already up and running. Similarly, 2,50,000 panchayats across the country will be connected over a fiber optic network. Moreover, a project headed by Kasturirangan, former ISRO head and now a planning commission member, is now driving a project that will capture India on a GIS platform, and Nandan Nilekani's UID project will tag each and every person living in India.


These projects would facilitate broadband penetration and usage in India. Pitroda informed that education planners were exploring the idea of setting up a META university that will allow its student to use, for instance the Delhi University campus, and take courses from several different universities.

"If we provide broadband, the opportunities will be endless," Sam Pitroda added. Interestingly, he also claimed that he was the lone voice that opposed the setting up of CSC (Citizen Service Centers) without content being in place. CSCs, as everybody knows have not really been able to take off so far. Pitroda said that the government today is ready to invest in wild, bold and futuristic ideas.



While Pitroda talked about what wonders can broadband bring about, R Chandrashekhar, telecom secretary and chairman of telecom commission in the Government of India, outlined that social sector services such as health and education can be completely transformed with broadband.

He said that hopefully in a few years broadband connectivity will be a given, however, the big challenge will be in terms of content availability and preparedness to leaverage broadband.

In his introductory note at the seminar, ISPAI chairman Rajesh Chharia, explained what ails the broadband scenario in India, where there are only 12 million broadband users out of the total 20 million Internet subscribers, in the past several  years.


Chharia put forth a list of expectations that the industry has from the government, which  will be essential for broadband to take off. These included unbundling of local loop so as to to break the monopoly of large operators, so that local and regional content and Internet providers can play a catalysts role; and to set aside a significant portion of USO Fund to build broadband.

Pravin Vishakantaiah, CMAI vice chairman said that the three things that are necessary for broadband to succeed in India and reach common man were eGovernance initiatives, creation of a broadband entrepreneurship ecosystem, and research around telecom technologies.

While the country is caught in the flames of telecom scam, it was one of those rare occasions when the political masters in charge of ICT in India came together on a single platform to support broadband.


Speaking on the occasion, Milind Deora, in his first address after taking over as the new minister of state for communications and IT said, "Considering that broadband penetration is so low in India, this is both a challenge as well as an opportunity." He added, "We as the government are very serious about the broadband revolution in India and are putting all our resources behind it."

Sachin Pilot, the other minister of state for telecom and IT, said that the game changer in Indian telecom so far has been low tariffs and low cost handsets. The challenge before all of us is to create demand for more services, and mere connectivity will not suffice.

The surprise factor at the conference was Milind Deora's statement, 'Telecom equipment manufacturing in India should also be a part of this telecom revolution, so that we have a vibrant manufacturing industry that can compete globally". Deora also informed that some announcements regarding domestic telecom manufacturing are likely to be made soon.

It was heartening to hear India's political leadership, which still plays a significant role in policy making that impacts telecom products, services and manufacturing talk in one voice about the criticality of broadband for India's progress, and how they contribute in making it happen.

However, only time will tell whether broadband revolution is around the corner, or will continue to be a distant dream.