“Even in terms of information and communications technology (ICT) access, its use and its skills, India ranks 129th among 166 countries. The country is below Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Bhutan and Kenya in the ranking. India ranks 125th in the world for fixed broadband penetration. Some of our neighbours like Bhutan and Sri Lanka are ahead of us. We need to seriously think about it,” Trai said in its recommendations on ‘Delivering Broadband Quickly: What do we need to do?’.
Against the target of achieving 175 million broadband connections by 2017, only 85.74 million have been achieved with the current download speed of 512 kbps.
“At present, the country is nowhere near meeting the target for a service considered almost a basic necessity in many developed countries. There is an urgent need to review present policies, the current state of implementation of building infrastructure required for penetration of broadband, the means and the supporting software/apps that will provide the content — the ends,” Trai said in the recommendations.
At the end of December 2014, there were 15.32 million fixed broadband connections and 70.42 million wireless broadband connections. There are 943.97 million mobile connections in India. To promote the use of fixed-line broadband, Trai proposed that the licence fee on the revenues earned from fixed line should be exempted for five years.
Trai said, while emphasising the need for revamping government bodies,“Wireless Planning Coordination (WPC) should be converted into an independent body by delinking it from the department of telecommunications (DoT)’s hierarchy by either converting it into a statutory body responsible to Parliament or transferring it to an existing statutory body.”
Also, it should be mandated to urgently decide the short-term and long-term plans for all spectrum through public consultations to allow innovative solutions and market-driven models for efficient utilisation of spectrum. Trai said spectrum should be reasonably priced and made available in significant quantities.
Multi-layered structure for decision making for National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) is not suitable and the structure needs immediate overhaul. The NOFN project aims at spreading broadband across 2.5 lakh village panchayats by the end of 2016 but has missed its target of completing rollout in the first 50,000 panchayats by March 2015.
The current usage of spectrum available with government agencies should be reviewed, starting within six months, so as to identify the possible areas where spectrum can be refarmed for efficient use.
TRAI expressed concern on government delaying the guidelines on spectrum trading and sharing saying that “it is strongly urged that a decision is taken in no later than three months from now.”
It also recommended that cable operators be allowed to function as resellers of internet service provider licence, and that digitisation of cable services be implemented in tier-2 and 3 cities in a time-bound manner.
Trai said there was a need to draw a clear road map for spectrum management stating the requirement and availability of spectrum for each licensed shared access (LSA), as well as for the whole country. This road map should be in public domain to ensure transparency.