State owned telecom operator, BSNL, is to procure 93 million lines to extend coverage of GSM mobile services to all the villages in the country having more than 1000 population. Through this expansion, BSNL will also introduce value added services like mobile TV, mobile broadband, MMS, location based services etc. This was announced by the Communications and IT Minister Thiru A Raja while addressing the Members of the Consultative Committee of Parliament attached to his Ministry in New Delhi on Wednesday. Thiru A Raja said, the procurement of the lines will be done in a phased manner through zonal competitive tendering process. The zonal tenders have already been floated.
The Minister informed that value added services like mobile banking, mobile advertisement, tele-education and lost mobile tracking system are also planned to be launched by BSNL during the current year. BSNL is going to provide wireless broadband services through Wi-Max technology via the franchisee route.
Thiru A Raja informed the Committee that BSNL’s mobile network is being upgraded to 3G levels for which order and the equipment are likely to be progressively commissioned by July 2009. BSNL has planned to provide high-speed data service (up to 2.4 Mbps) on CDMA WLL network. It has already introduced MSC based WLL System in its network and has also planned to commercially launch prepaid services on WLL from this month. On the wire line segment, BSNL is upgrading its technology to create a pole less network.
Reaffirming the Government’s commitment to connect the unconnected population with the support of USO fund, the Minister said, 8000 mobile towers would be erected by the end of this year under Phase-I of the shared mobile infrastructure scheme. Another 11000 towers are planned under Phase-II of this scheme in order to cover other uncovered areas.
As regards provision of Broadband connectivity with support from the USO fund, Thiru A Raja said, government will initially connect 5000 blocks in the country by wireless broadband soon after the allocation of the spectrum. Villages coming within a radius of 10 Kms. of the Block Headquarter shall be covered by such connectivity. Many institutional users will be benefited from the wireless broadband connectivity like schools, public health centers, Village Panchayats and the Community Service Centers (CSCs) meant to provide E-Governance and Data services to the rural areas. BSNL will play a major role in providing the wireless broadband connectivity as it has done in the case of the shared mobile infrastructure scheme.
The Minister assured the Members of the Committee that provision of telecom facilities in the rural and remote areas of the country is receiving high priority. He said, the UPA government has kept a target of 500 million telephone connections by 2010 and 750 million connections by 2012. He hoped that this target would be surpassed.
Thiru A Raja informed Members that in order to promote expansion of rural wire line and wire line based broadband services, Government has recently decided to waive off the license fees for rural wire line. As per the recommendation of TRAI on phasing out of Access Deficit Charges (ADC) and reduction in USO levy, Government has also decided to give USO fund support to BSNL and reduce USO levy from 5% to 3% for covering more than 95% of the development blocks.
Government has decided to allocate 3G spectrum to BSNL and MTNL even before its auction so that they can gear up to roll out 3G services.
Apprising the Committee about the initiatives being taken by MTNL, Thiru A Raja said, the PSU is going to introduce a state of art convergent billing system in order to provide a common bill to its customers for all the services. It will also launch NGN (New Generation Network) at Tandem level, which will help in smoother migration from current TDM network to an all IP network. MTNL has planned to increase Broadband enabled exchanges and to expand its GSM capacity in Delhi and Mumbai by 2 million each including 3G services. This exercise will also improve the Quality of Services and customer satisfaction. The Minister announced that MTNL will introduce DWDM (Dense Wave Division Multiplexing) to strengthen its transmission network, expand its IP/MPLS network, FTTH (Fiber To The Home) technology to meet the anticipated very high bandwidth requirements from the customers when services like HDTV, VOD, online gaming are introduced. MTNL also plans to introduce Next Generation Services like Wi-Max & 3G-GSM in coming days.
Some of the projects which have been taken up and completed by MTNL in the recent times are launch of Wi-Fi services by creating hot spots in Delhi, state of art IP/MPLS core network, introduction of triple play services i.e. voice, data & video on the same copper pair, introduction of IPTV (Internet Protocol Television), VOIP (Voice Over IP) services on revenue share basis.