The ministry of information and broadcasting and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India have reviewed a proposal to provide broadband services through existing cable TV networks. They have an aim to ramp up broadband connectivity to the farthest reaches of the country.
The ministry officials said that the move has the potential to provide instant internet connectivity to nearly 19 crore households that have television sets. Of these, about 10 crore homes already have a cable TV subscription.
At a recently held deliberation with cable operators from across the country, Trai chairman R S Sharma also said that such a move can increase internet connectivity through fixed line networks from the existing 7 per cent, against the global average of 46 per cent.
At the consumers’ end, the transition to broadband, along with cable TV services, will happen through a simple migration to a new set-top box. At the service providers’ end, technology integration for both cable and broadband services will be facilitated by BECIL – the ministry’s engineering arm.
The main point, however, remains the 8 per cent Annual General Revenue (AGR) – the payment that cable operators currently pay to the department of telecom – and whether, once this transition is made, it should only be paid for the broadband services, or for the overall revenue generated from both businesses. Apart from concerns over licensing, there is an apprehension among cable operators that paying AGR on total revenue generated from both businesses may impact their bottom lines.
Sources in the government said that the ministry and cable operators are both keen on seeing the proposal being implemented. The government has also assured cable operators that no specific technology will be imposed on service operators for providing broadband services through cable networks.