labels: cisco systems, infotech
Convergence: Triple play broadband news
07 July 2005

India is speeding towards the broadband revolution, says Sudhir Narang*, senior VP, service provider and government, Cisco Systems, India & SAARC.

Sudhir NarangAfter wireless, broadband is expected to be the next big revolution to sweep India. The day isn''t far away when Indian consumers will have access to triple play broadband at their doorstep - whether home or office.

Globally, broadband remains hot. Estimates by Ovum put broadband connections at 140 million this year, while Yankee Group says that number could well pass 325 million by 2008. South Korea has the led the global broadband revolution and is a classic example of how the technology can positively impact the economy of a nation.

From India''s perspective, broadband is the ideal technology platform to connect a geographically diverse country and to deliver the promise of convergence, if India is to continue to develop and progress in today''s information-based global economy. The possibilities are immense and include distance learning, telemedicine, quality entertainment and more productive enterprises among others, all of which will drive economic growth further.

Though broadband is still nascent in India the initial indications are encouraging, with the government working with the industry to put in place a broadband policy. Let''s take a closer look at what broadband has to offer to India.

Impact of Broadband on the Indian economy
Triple play broadband holds immense potential for India. Imagine the possibilities - video conferencing can connect far-flung offices and also enable distance education; tele-medicine can bring medical attention to remote rural areas, video on demand can time-shift entertainment to suit our convenience, voice over IP can bring telephony costs down even further, enterprises can access business applications centrally increasing overall productivity, online gaming and other applications and services can spawn new domestic industries thanks to India''s entrepreneurial spirit among other things.

Broadband will attract new foreign investments, create job opportunities, provide access to new and improved services and increase productivity through infrastructure creation, All these factors will collectively help India develop and progress as a nation and aid in bridging the great digital divide that exists in the Country.

As far as demand goes, South Koreans have shown that if you build the infrastructure and provide the services at affordable prices, the demand will follow. India has a similar example in the success of mobile communications and there isn''t any reason to believe that it won''t happen in broadband.

Impact of Broadband on the Home
That businesses will adopt technologies like broadband to be more productive, is a given. A growing number of Indian enterprises are looking at broadband to drive an increase in efficiencies. But if broadband has to be truly successful it needs to target the larger audience — the home user. So let''s look at what a single connection at your home delivering voice, video and data and providing a truly converged experience actually means.

In an entertainment crazy country like India, broadband allows users at home to download the latest chart topping music and movies at the click of a button. Thanks to online gaming, children at home have access to the latest games and can play with multiple players online. They also have access to the repository of information on the internet from an education perspective.

Working professionals can download their mails at home and can connect to their company''s networks remotely allowing them to work effectively and at the same time be able to spend more time with the family at home. These are some common examples but there will be more once homes start having broadband connections. Enterprises and individuals will start leveraging the broadband to deliver services like complaints, bill payments, online shopping, online-education and customized entertainment content at your doorstep.

The South Korean example, is a case study for reference: South Korean students take free tutorials for the national aptitude test, a SAT-like exam. Some students even attend their lectures from home, entirely at their convenience.

And this is just the beginning. In the coming years, broadband''s speed and availability are likely to increase. Integration with various devices, including home appliances, will also grow.

Where is India in the race for broadband?
Both the government and the industry have identified broadband as the next big focus area for them. The government is formulating a broadband policy aimed at tackling the challenges faced with driving adoption. The broadband policy is expected to be announced anytime now. TRAI, the Indian telecom regulator, has already submitted its recommendations to address the government and set a target of 20 million broadband users by 2010. Believers, like me, would say that the target is surpass-able.

More importantly, there are some successful rural initiatives like ITC''s e-Choupal and Gyandoot that among other things are generally increasing computer literacy and increasing IT awareness in rural India.

The two key challenges that broadband faces in India are lack of infrastructure to provide high speed access and the high cost of bandwidth today, which is around 60 times more expensive than in South Korea, says TRAI. Both these challenges are being addressed. Most major Indian telecom operators are investing in building the infrastructure and have aggressive plans to provide services to enterprises and the home by the end of the year. TRAI in its recommendations has suggested lower costs of broadband access and promoting competition to boost adoption.

From a technology perspective, the three most common modes of broadband access are likely to be Ethernet, digital subscriber lines (DSL) as it works on regular telephone lines, cable and mobile. India has over 40 million fixed line subscribers, cable and mobile subscribers in each category. Other possibilities for providing broadband are via satellite and through other wireless technologies.

To sum up, the Indian broadband revolution has begun and it will lead the country into the next phase of economic growth.

*The author is senior vice president (SP & Government) Cisco System.

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Convergence: Triple play broadband