Broadband Scenario at Large, vis-à-vis the Indian Panorama

During the nineties, the National Information Infrastructure scheme in the United States stressed hoghly on creating broadband Internet access a public issue for all and sundry. In course of the next few years, Internet access to homes was provided (through dial-up) while some businesses as well as educational institutions were using broadband connections similarly. In 2000, there were just about 150 million dial-up subscribers contained in 36 OECD countries [OECD stands for Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which is an intergovernmental economic organization with 36 member countries to stimulate economic progress and world trade]. During this period, Telewest offered cable broadband with maximum speeds of 512 kilobits per second.

However by 2004, broadband had grown fairly well, while dial-up slowly declined, the number of subscriptions reaching 130 million in estimation. In 2010 (so far as OECD countries are concerned) more than 90 per cent of the Internet access subscriptions used broadband, claiming well above 300 million subscriptions, while dial-up declining to little above 30 million.

Commonest Use

Incidentally, the broadband technologies in commonest use are ADSL and cable Internet access, while newer technologies include VDSL and optical fibre extended closer to the subscriber in both telephone and cable units. Fibre-optic communication, while only recently being used in ‘premises and to the curb’ schemes has played an important role in enabling broadband Internet access by making transmission of information at very high data rates over longer distances, which is also relatively  more cost-effective as compared to copper wire technology.

Wireless and Satellite Internet

In areas not served by ADSL or cable, quite a few community organizations and local governments are installing Wi-Fi networks, while wireless and satellite Internet are extensively used in rural, undeveloped, or other hard to serve areas where wired Internet is not found suitable.

Newer technologies being deployed for fixed (stationary) and mobile broadband access include WiMAX, LTE, and fixed wireless, e.g., Motorola Canopy. [Motorola Canopy is a fixed wireless networking system designed for wireless Internet service providers to provide Internet access.]

Beginning in or around 2006, mobile broadband access is becoming increasingly available at the consumer level using “3G” and “4G” technologies such as HSPA, EV-DO, HSPA+, and LTE.

Wider Availability

Apart from access from home, school, and the workplace, Internet access is now offered from public places such as libraries and ‘Internet cafes’, where computers with Internet connections are readily available on payment of a nominal charge. Some libraries also provide stations for physically connecting users’ laptops to local area networks (LANs).

Wireless Internet access points are also available in public places such as airport halls, while some access points  that are often called Internet kiosk”, “public access terminal”, and “Web payphone”. Many hotels also have public terminals, usually fee based.

Indian Scenario (Latest Report)

The Union Cabinet (Government of India) has since approved a new telecom policy – National Digital Communications Policy 2018 – designed to provide “broadband to all,” Union Communications Minister Manoj Sinha announced the other day.

The policy, aimed at providing universal availability of 50Mbps and attracting investments worth $100 billion (about Rs. 7.26 lakh crores), was approved by the Telecom Commission in July this year after the government came out with a draft policy in May.

Sinha, addressing the media after the cabinet meeting, said that among other targets the policy aims to “provide broadband to all and create 40 lakh jobs.” It also aims at providing a “ubiquitous, resilient, secure and affordable” digital communication services. Further, the policy aims at providing 1Gbps connectivity to all “Gram Panchayats” by 2020 and 10Gbps by 2022.

It plans to raise India to the level of the top 50 nations in the Information and Communication Technology Development Index of the International Telecommunication Union from 134 in 2017, enhancing the country’s contribution to global value chains and ensuring digital sovereignty, he added.