HomeOpinionsUntapped Horizons: Understanding the Barriers Hindering Broadband Access in India

Untapped Horizons: Understanding the Barriers Hindering Broadband Access in India



In the rapidly evolving landscape of digital connectivity, India has made significant strides in the realm of broadband services. However, a closer look at the statistics reveals a concerning trend – wireline broadband, despite its potential, accounts for only a meager 4.1% of the total broadband subscribers in the country. With a total of 861.472 million broadband subscribers, a mere 35.54 million are wired broadband users, pointing towards a substantial gap in the penetration of wireline services.

In this article, we delve into the factors contributing to this low penetration and propose strategic measures to address these challenges.

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Urban-Rural Disparities

The divide between urban and rural wireline broadband subscribers is glaring, with a staggering 91% in urban areas and a paltry 9% in rural regions. This urban-centric distribution reflects a digital gap that needs urgent attention. Bridging this divide requires a concerted effort to extend wireline infrastructure to rural areas, ensuring that the benefits of high-speed internet reach every corner of the nation.

High Capital Investment Barrier

The capital-intensive nature of the wireline broadband business poses a significant hurdle to its widespread adoption. Establishing the necessary infrastructure involves substantial costs, limiting the feasibility of such projects, particularly in rural and economically challenged areas. To encourage greater investment, the government needs to explore mechanisms that alleviate the financial burden on service providers.

License Fee Impediments

The government currently imposes an 8% license fee on wireline revenue for Internet Service Providers (ISPs). This additional financial burden further diminishes the attractiveness of wireline broadband. To incentivize ISPs and promote wider adoption, the government should consider waiving the license fee on wireline broadband, a proposal that has been pending for an extended period.

Right of Way (ROW) Challenges

The laying of underground infrastructure and utilizing street furniture for wireline broadband often encounter exorbitant Right-of-way charges. These charges vary across states, leading to an inconsistent regulatory environment. To foster a conducive atmosphere for wireline expansion, the government should streamline ROW charges, establishing a uniform policy that encourages infrastructure development.

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Promoting Single Network Infrastructure

The current landscape sees multiple service providers laying down their own infrastructure in the same areas, resulting in redundancy and increased costs. There is a compelling need to promote the concept of a single, neutral network. This shared infrastructure model would optimize capital investments, allowing for more extensive coverage of wireline networks. The government should facilitate the creation of neutral networks through Infrastructure Providers (IP-1) and formulate policies to enable service providers to utilize this shared infrastructure efficiently.

Single Ducting Model

Planning for a single ducting model along roads can significantly reduce the cost and complexity associated with laying down wireline infrastructure. By providing a shared ducting infrastructure that can be accessed by multiple service providers, the government can create a more efficient and cost-effective environment for wireline expansion.

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Addressing the low penetration of wireline broadband in India requires a comprehensive approach that tackles the multiple challenges faced by service providers. The government’s support in waiving license fees, streamlining ROW charges, and promoting a shared infrastructure model are critical steps toward realizing the vision of a digitally connected India. By unlocking the potential of wireline broadband, we can bridge the urban-rural divide, foster economic growth, and ensure that the benefits of high-speed internet reach every corner of the country.


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Pankaj Nagpal
Pankaj Nagpal
Pankaj Nagpal, COO, Fusionnet

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