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Monday, January 17, 2022

We will be defeated without taking the right steps on broadband

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The spectrum that is available with the government is not allowed to be used for technological development experiments and global applications, just like a person should not be allowed to use the air around.

Due to lack of proper broadband in our country, the infrastructure related to the lives of common people is not being developed and used properly, this is a problem in itself. We are paying for it in the fields of education, healthcare, productivity, commerce, industry, government services and entertainment. Is the government not aware of this? Because of course the government is capable of finding a way to use spectrum for general use. Government and officials may be busy in other work but they should give priority to this sector.

The real problem is to satisfy the competing demands arising from our overall complex psychology. One of our concerns is that various corporations have to pay for public resources while not being allowed to make profits. Such an ideology is not limited only to the government, but many people in the press and media, politics, civil administration and even the judiciary have the same view. In the midst of the decision-makers loneliness and thinking of protecting themselves from future crises, circumstances become such that no innovative use can be made to meet our communication needs.

Many times such questions also arise that we need 5G or faster internet or we already have enough broadband, etc. We have become accustomed to passive basic cooperation and we have got used to accepting shortcomings in our daily lives. Whether it is call drop, slow internet or electric-water supply problem. We have accepted all these things whereas in reality these are the things which have a profound effect on our productivity and impact. Meanwhile, we are engaged in another auction of 4G spectrum, while in the field of 5G we are looking far away from the rest of the world. If our policy makers and administrators want to improve our communication, including rural broadband, we will probably have to learn a lesson from its implementation in other parts of the world. An interesting example is the Federal Communications Commission of America (FCC).

In 2019, the FCC launched the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDFO) initiative with the objective of improving broadband facility in low-access markets to use the Universal Service Obligation Fund raised by telecom service providers to set up high-speed networks in rural areas. Can be done in doing. It replaced the predecessor Connect America Fund program which had failed. In 2020, the FCC conducted reverse auctions for rural consumers and allowed slow service to remote areas. An amount of $ 9.2 billion i.e. Rs 67,000 crore was sanctioned for the first phase, which will be given in monthly instalments for the next 10 years. The project has to be completed on time. There are 55,000 crore rupees in similar universal service liability funds in India.

More than 400 companies have received RDOF contracts to provide network and service. These include power distribution companies as well. Many of these have plans to design a fibre-optic network. But LTM Broadband, the biggest winner and winning bid of $ 1.3 billion, also plans to use high-end wireless.

Another winner, SpaceX, plans to launch satellites into the Earth’s lower orbit to provide speeds of 100 Mbps. Some analysts and participants also criticized the feasibility of the gigabyte wireless network. It is yet to be ascertained whether the service will be completed on time and will make a profit or not.

The FCC example is useful to India despite the difference in the environment. One is that with its help, funds can be raised for rural broadband development and performance can be monitored every six months. Second, a 10-year contract can be awarded without any noise and the time period and model of the reverse auction (in which the seller decides at what price he wants to sell the goods) can be decided. Third, technology selection may be allowed. We need such a step.

Telecom service providers in countries of North Europe or North Atlantic, including Sweden, shared infrastructure and spectrum from 2G to 4G and now this cooperation is being extended to 5G. Every kind of technology is present in their network.

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Policymakers for India will have to develop appropriate policies, laws etc. that suit our context, culture, institutions, behaviour and geographical and social conditions. An important point is that there should be a shared networked broadband system for rural and urban areas. In Sweden, the provision of shared infrastructure was made necessary a decade ago. In India too, there is a need for initiative and encouragement from the government. This is because the policies, laws and rules will have to be changed drastically. This will require coordination between various agencies and government departments, legislative institutions and other stakeholders. Stakeholders include service providers, manufacturers and users.

Sweden’s experience shows that the partnership reduces environmental impact, as well as considerable cost and energy savings. But it is difficult to get positive results in a country like India without government initiative and convenience.

There is a need to change the spectrum rules in the country to make them compatible with the FCC model. This should be discussed with the industry and other stakeholders. In this way, the expansion of Wi-Fi in 5 GHz style is the first step. The target is 6 GHz for Wi-Fi, 60 GHz for internal Wi-Fi and license-sharing shared access service providers, and 70-80 GHz for such external regulation. After this, systematic initiative of network sharing is necessary. In this, the government should be a partner through BSNL along with other parties. For this, all the concerned government departments and other stakeholders will have to work together.

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Mirza Shehnaz
Shehnaz Ali Siddiqui is a Corporate Communications Expert by profession and writer by Passion. She has experience of many years in the same. Her educational background in Mass communication has given her a broad base from which to approach many topics. She enjoys writing around Public relations, Corporate communications, travel, entrepreneurship, insurance, and finance among others.
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