Centre for Internet & Society

The Broadband Policy, 2004 (“Policy”) was laid down by the Government of India in order to realize the potential of broadband services. It aimed at enhancing the quality of life by implementation of tele-education, tele-medicine, e-governance, entertainment and also to generate employment through high speed access to information and web-based communication.

Need for the Policy

Prior to the implementation of the Policy, broadband penetration was significantly low as compared to the other Asian countries. At the time of the implementation of the Policy the penetration of broadband, internet and personal computers were at 0.02 per cent, 0.4 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively. There was not uniform standard for broadband speed and connectivity. Internet access was available at various speeds varying from 64 kilo bits per second to 128 kilo bits per second.

Broadband Connectivity

Under the Policy broadband connectivity is defined as:

An always-on data connection that is able to support interactive services including Internet access and has the capability of the minimum download speed of 256 kilo bits per second (kbps) to an individual subscriber from the Point Of Presence (POP) of the service provider intending to provide Broadband service where multiple such individual Broadband connections are aggregated and the subscriber is able to access these interactive services including the Internet through this POP.  The interactive services will exclude any services for which a separate licence is specifically required, for example, real-time voice transmission, except to the extent that it is presently permitted under ISP licence with Internet Telephony.[1]

The key characteristics of broadband connectivity are

  • Always on data connection
  • Ability to support interactive services including internet access
  • Minimum download speed of 256 kilo bits per second
  • Does not include any services for which the internet service provider to procure separate licence such as real time voice transmission.

Targets of the Broadband Policy, 2004

The Policy had the following targets:

Year Ending Internet Subscribers Broadband Subscribers
2005 6 million 3 million
2007 18 million 9 million
40 million 20 million

Technology Options for Broadband Services

The Policy envisioned the following technology options for better access to internet and broadband

  • Optical Fibre Technologies
  • Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) on copper loop
  • Cable TV network
  • Satellite Media
  • Terrestrial Wireless and
  • Other Future Technologies

The Policy emphasized on the implementation of broadband services through the copper loop. It also mentioned that Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Limited (MTNL) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) would aggressively use their already existing broadband infrastructure to provide broadband services. It also indicated that the private internet service provider will enter into commercial agreements with the MTNL and BSNL to utilize their infrastructure to provide internet services.

Cable networks reached more people than copper telephone connections and therefore, the Policy envisaged that the cable networks can be utilized to provide broadband connections. The Policy also mentioned its intention to use very small aperture terminals (VSAT) and direct-to-home (DTH) for increasing broadband penetration as such technologies can be implemented in remote areas.

The Policy also mentioned that the Government had de-licensed 2.40-2.4835 GHz bands for low power indoor use (including Wi-Fi technologies based on the IEEE 802.11b and 802.11g standards).[2]

Quality of Service

The Policy recognized that the qualities of service parameters were of great importance and it requested Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to prescribe quality of service parameters for broadband service.

Other Mandates of Policy

The issues regarding cost of bandwidth for providing internet and broadband should be resolved Government and TRAI at the earliest.

The National Internet Exchange of India was set up by the Department of Information Technology to ensure that internet traffic originating from and destined for India should be routed within India.

Role of Other Agencies:  Growth of broadband and internet services is dependent upon personal computers and content and application available on the internet. Therefore, it is necessary that other departments such as State Electricity Boards and the Department of Information Technology and other relevant authorities should also contribute to spreading broadband services in the rural areas.

Fiscal Issues: The Policy gives a high priority to indigenous manufacture of broadband related equipments. The Government to should endeavour to, make available, broadband and associated equipments at a low price.

The Policy aimed at providing broadband (minimum speed of 256 kbps) to 20 million subscribers. However, only 13 million subscribers have broadband connectivity as in May 2012.

[1].Broadband connectivity, available at http://www.dot.gov.in/ntp/broadbandpolicy2004.htm
[2]. Vikram Raghavan, Communications Laws in India (Legal Aspects of Telecom, Broadcasting and Cable Services), LexisNexis Butterworths, 2007, pp. 480-81

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