Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), India’s biggest phone services firm, will piggyback a state-of-the-art wireless broadband network that it’s setting up for a large computer kiosk network for the Union government to offer up to 85,000 customers high-speed wireless broadband services.
A draft tender circulated by the state-owned BSNL among hardware vendors details a range of voice and value-added services to be offered. “The class of service features shall support...real-time and extended?real-time?voice and video traffic for voice over IP, fax, video conferencing and video on demand applications,” says the draft tender, indicating the type of services for which it plans to use the network.
The service will use the emerging Wimax (worldwide interoperability for microwave access), which is capable of data speeds of 10 megabits per second (mbps). In comparison, third generation (3G, a fast mobile phone standard) networks promise data throughput of 2mbps and data-friendly cellular networks deliver speeds of up to 512 kilobits per second.
In April, the IT department handed over Rs160 crore to BSNL to set up a high-speed data network connecting 35,000 so-called community service centres (CSCs)—part of a scheme to set up 100,000 such centres across India.
The centres, to be run on the public call office model by village-based “entrepreneurs”, are being designed to provide government services such as issue of certificates, registration of births and deaths, along with commercial information.
BSNL already has a contract to connect around 20,000 CSCs through its land-line based broadband network; and it has floated the draft tender to provide connectivity to the remaining 15,000 centres.
The Wimax network will cover a total area of around 700,000 sq. km and have 1,000 cell-sites or towers with a range of 15km radius each. BSNL will buy around 85,000 customer-end equipment, to be rented out to its residential and commercial customers.
Only two equipment vendors will be chosen after a bidding process, as per the tender. The lowest bidder will be allocated the West and the North zones that account for around 60% of the planned deployment and the second lowest bidder in the South and East.
One vendor expressed scepticism about meeting the technical requirements of the tender. “On the one hand, they are talking of connectivity of 5mbps on a laptop using a PC-card,” said a senior executive with one of the participating vendors, “and on the other, they want the same network to be able to give a bandwidth of 1mbps, 15km away.” BSNL will meet the vendors to finalize tender specifications by the month-end and place the purchase order in six months or so, a company official said.
BSNL separately plans to set up a countrywide, mobile high-speed data network in a revenue-share model with equipment and service vendors with an investment of up to Rs1,000 crore in the first year.