"The framework for the National Broadband Plan (NBP) will be finalised by the end of this fiscal (March 31)," IT & Telecom Minister Sibal said at a roundtable meeting here with various stakeholders. Earlier this month, Sibal -- while announcing his 100-day agenda after assuming stewardship of the Telecom Ministry -- had said the ministry will take concrete steps towards finalisation of the NBP, including the strategy for implementation and roll-out of optical fibre networks.
The meeting was attended by various operators including Bharti Airtel, Aircel, MTS and SSTL. Mobile operators' associations, including COAI and AUSPI, were also a part of the discussions. "The minister has discussed various issues related to NBP and the service providers have shared our views and concerns regarding the issue. This is in line with the 100-day agenda which Kapil Sibal had announced. We welcome this step and many more such discussions would be held by the minister in future also," COAI Director-General Rajan S Mathew said.
Last year, telecom authority Trai had recommended setting up a national broadband network at a cost of about Rs 60,000 crore in order to achieve 160 million broadband connections by 2014. Telecom regulator Trai said the 'National Broadband Plan' should be financed through a universal service obligation (USO) fund and loans given by the government.
Trai's recommendations came amid the government's failure to meet its target of 20 million broadband connections by 2010. At present, the number of broadband connections is only 10.3 million. In addition, the recommendations on the 'National Broadband Plan' are expected to facilitate inclusive growth of the country by including the large rural population in governance and the decision-making process, as well as extend better education, health and banking facilities to rural areas.
To be established in two phases, this network will be an open-access optical fibre network connecting all habitations with a population of 500 and above and will be completed by 2013. Trai has also recommended the formation of a government-owned holding company -- National Optical Fibre Agency (NOFA) -- to establish the nationwide networks.
In addition, Trai had also recommended the formation of a State Optical Fibre Agency (SOFA) in every state, with 51 per cent equity held by NOFA and the rest by the respective state governments, for setting up the network. Both the government holding companies are expected to ring in revenue to the tune of Rs 26,000 crore per year once the network is established.