April 2008


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Broadband connectivity in Rural India

In order to expand broadband connectivity to rural areas under the purview of Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), the Indian Telegraph Rules have been amended. The Indian Telegraph has added stream IV under the title 'Provision of broadband connectivity to villages in a phased manner'. The USOF is working on a scheme for providing financial assistance by way of subsidy for the broadband active infrastructure like (Base Transceiver Station) and by utilising the existing passive infrastructure available with the Telecom service providers. The Government has approved a Common Services Centres (CSCs) Scheme for providing support for establishing 100,000 Common Services Centres in 600,000 villages of India. The main objective is to develop a platform that can enable government, private and social sector organisations to align their social and commercial goals for the benefit of the rural population in the remotest corners of the country through a combination of IT-based as well as non-IT-based services. It is also proposed to setup a National Knowledge Network for providing broadband connectivity to knowledge Institutions in the country.

Kenya: ICT firm to link rural population

The Kenya Data Networks will roll out a Sh210 million initiative geared to expanding its ICT reach. The project called 'Digital Village Constituency Cluster' will target the rural population. With the help of project, KDN will install VSat base stations in each of the country's constituency. The company is aiming to help Kenyans harness the untapped potential in the rural areas while enabling them to acquire relevant ICT skills for the sake of development. KDN will use its butterfly product to broaden distribution of local content. Under the programme, each constituency cluster will consist of minimum eight (8) digital units serving commercial, developmental and educational activities within a 15km radius. People will be able to access the Internet through a dedicated wireless infrastructure guaranteeing reliable single hop connectivity. Through a pilot
project, KDN will connect 40 constituencies in collaboration with and the Youth Enterprise Development Fund amongst other organisations.

India to become world's 2nd  largest wireless market

India will become the world's second largest wireless network, ousting US to the third slot. China tops the global rank with over 540 million wireless customers in February 2008, followed by the US with 260.50 million and India with 250.93 million. According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) the US is adding 2 to 3 million subscribers a month, half of China's 6 to 7 million, both of which are considerably lower than India's monthly addition of 8 to 9 million. TRAI also hints that in April, India will meet another landmark by hitting 300 million subscribers, both wireless and wireline. TRAI states that 8.49 million telephone connections have been added during February 2008 against an addition of 8.74 million connections in January 2008, thereby taking the total number of telephone connections to 290 million at the end of February 2008. Meanwhile, 8.53 million wireless subscribers were added in February, taking the total wireless subscriber base including GSM, CDMA and fixed wireless and local loop to 250 million.

Spectrum Management to be Computerised in India

The spectrum management for mobile phones will be  computerised by April 2008. This is a $50 million automation project of the Department of Telecom (DoT) in collboration with the World Bank. Till now the spectrum resources are managed manually. The new project would assure that radio frequencies are used effectively across various sections of users, telecom operators, Airport Authority of India, defence forces, police and para-military forces, railways, port authorities, broadcasters etc. The project includes establishing a satellite earth station, 22 terrestrial microwave earth stations, 4 HF/VHF/UHF fixed monitoring stations and 40 mobile monitoring systems and all of these will have a network with the automated National Radio Spectrum Management and Monitoring System (NRSMMS).

Bangladeshis spend lowest on mobile  phone in South Asia

According to a recent study, conducted by LIRNEasia, Bangladeshis spend less on mobile phone use than any other people in South Asia. Bangladesh ranked No 1 in terms of affordability of cost by the low, medium and high mobile users in both prepaid and post paid, followed by Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. According to the study, a low prepaid user means a person who talks 68 minutes per month on an average and low post paid user means a 207-minute talking time per month. In the case of medium users, the study considers 175-minute and 535-minute talking time per month for prepaid and post paid customers. And high user means 378-minute talking time for prepaid and 1155- minute talking time for post-paid. In purchasing parity (PPP) terms, reflecting affordability, Pakistan has been adjudged the most affordable, followed by Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India in the prepaid segment. In the SAARC region, Afghans spend the highest on mobile phone use. Among the eight South Asian countries, for the low user, essentially the poorer user, the average monthly cost of using a mobile in Bangladesh is as low as$2.46 per month in case of prepaid. In the case of low users in prepaid basket, Pakistan ($3.34), India ($3.72) and Sri Lanka ($3.83) followed Bangladesh. Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives were brought under the study. The study found that for high prepaid users average monthly expenditure is $12.31, followed by Pakistan's $16.92, India's $18.32 and Sri Lanka's $20.046. Afghanistan is on the top list in terms of cost that ranges from $8.33 for low user to $43.34 for higher user. In the case of post paid PPP, Bangladesh holds the lowest position at both the medium and high user level. But it has been adjudged the second ($33.83) at low user level, followed by Pakistan ($33.32).

DoT announced 3G spectrum for global operators

Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Government of India, has announced its plans that will allow new players including foreign operators to get 3G spectrum in India. DoT stated that the new GSM operators will be get a chance to bid for up to 10 MHz of 3G spectrum, or 2 blocks that will help them to launch 3G spectrum successfully. This decision of the DoT overrules the announcement of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) which had announced that only the existing GSM operators will be allowed to bid and for single blocks of 5 MHz spectrum. However, DoT has made provisions for strict licence obligations for operators to meet the 3G bid. If the operators fail to meet the obligations then there could be a cancellation of the spectrum assignment and allocation to a new entrant through auction.

Low-cost handsets driving mobile market: Yankee Group study

Low-cost handsets are driving the growth of mobile Industry in India, according to recent study conducted by Yankee Group. According to the study, mobile handsets are costing less than $50 account for 62 per cent of all imported units. The study points out that low-cost CDMA handsets are more popular than GSM in this category. Very low-cost handsets have also become important to the Indian cellular market's astonishing growth. Sub-$50 models accounted for 62 per cent of all imported units between January and October 2007. CDMA models from 13 vendors dominate this category, comprising 78 per cent of all sub-$50 imports. Currently, the country's cellular market is continuously adding new subscribers at a world-leading rate of 7-8 million users per month. The broadening availability of ultra low-cost handsets (defined as sub-$35) is also becoming one of the key drivers to subscriber growth. In terms of average selling price, CDMA handsets were found cheaper than GSM low-cost handsets. However, the price gap between CDMA and GSM has narrowed with the introduction of sub-$30 GSM imports from August to October.

Ghana's communication  backbone completed

The first phase of the national optic fibre communication backbone project has been completed.

The project will reduce the cost of communication and other related services in the country. The first phase, which has dubbed the Southern Loop with an extension to Tamale, is currently on trial. The project will give a path for ICT programmes to be undertaken nationwide and thereby bridge the digital divide between the rural and urban areas. The ICT backbone project was the part of the broadband infrastructure expected to be used to undertake and implement ICT programmes in governance, health, education, commerce and agriculture. 

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