New Delhi: The government’s ambitious national broadband plan to connect as many as 2.5 lakh villages through optic fibre came in for sharp criticism from telecom regulator Rahul Khullar, who termed the move as “impossible” to implement and something that is bound to “fail”.
Khullar, the head of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), also reiterated the need for higher spectrum availability before the February auctions and said efforts should be made to have four blocks of 3G spectrum (of 5MHz each) for sale instead of only one block that may be released by the Defence.
Speaking about the broadband expansion, he said that a plan to connect the entire country at one go is not the right way of providing broadband connectivity to all. “We are deluding ourselves by saying that we will reach 100%. Isn’t it simple to say that we will reach 50% first, or the metros, cities, and then the talukas? Why do we say 100% first, and then fail on it, and thereafter recriminate?” Khullar said at a seminar ‘India – Broadband For All’ organised by Ericsson and COAI. “It is an impossible target, (and) you are bound to fail”.
The Modi government plans to link village panchayats across the country by December 2016 through the national optical fibre network (NOFN). The idea is to provide broadband access to all through the programme, while promoting initiatives like e-governance, e-education and e-health.
Khullar said that a focus just on building optic fibre infrastructure “is wrong”, but rather the government needs to focus on developing applications based on the requirements in the rural areas. He said that there is a need to engage state governments to work out local solutions and applications. “Can you tell of any application that does this?”
Khullar said other stakeholders should also be roped in to make the project viable. “Unless you can co-opt state governments, universities, hospitals, it will only be on paper. You can take it from me. It is not about (optic fibre) pipes, but about delivering outcomes.”