Public sector telecom giant Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) is said to be readying an investment of around Rs1,600 crore in infrastructure facilities to support eight million broadband connections.
Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the launch of the Nova netPC, a low-cost computer that will be an enabler for the telecom giant to secure a nine-million customer base, Kuldeep Goyal, chairman and managing director of BSNL said that the public sector telco had received an order from the government to roll out eight million broadband connections.
This rollout would see BSNL invest Rs1,600 crore in infrastructure facilities needed to support these connections.
Moreover, the facilitate the adoption of broadband, BSNL, in association with Chennai-based Novatium Solutions has launched the Nova Net PC, a new range of personal computers.
The partnership and low cost offering with Novatium is aimed at reaching rural communities in India where people are unable to afford notebooks and desktop computers on account of their high prices. This new Nova Net PC comprises a set up box, keyboard and a mouse, and would be available to customers at an initial down payment of around Rs1,999 to Rs2,999, and a monthly rental of Rs199, or Rs175 respectively.
Goyal said that BSNL is planning to add nine millon connections at the rate of three million annually. India presently has an abysmal broadband penetration level of less than one per cent. Of this, BSNL has a market share of around 60 per cent with a customer base of 5.52 million, according to Goyal. Developed countries have broadband penetration levels of around 60 per cent, or higher.
Goyal also said that BSNL is intending to reach out to around 1,000 rural blocks through its WiMax wireless broadband technology, and plans to set up terminals at affordable prices that will allow customers to use broadband through its 22,000 telephone exchanges across India. Advance purchase orders for WiMAX equipment had been placed with suppliers, reports said.
BSNL is reported to be in talks with the government for using the USO fund, or the Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund that was established with the fundamental objective of providing access to 'basic' telegraph services, to provide broadband in rural areas at subsidised rate.
BSNL's next plan to increase its service offering include rolling out Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) to 50,000 in 93 cities from the present 4,000 in nine cities. IT also intends to offer 3G services in Chennai by around February.
The Nova netPC has 11 global patents to its credit, and has been in existence for over a year in Delhi. It is scheduled to go commercial shortly, and has also been launched in Mauritius, in addition to the 1,000 plus users in the national capital. Novatium is targeting 1,000 units in Chennai, where BSNL has 8,000 new connections a month.