Independent infrastructure investments can boost cable digitization: Telecom Lead summit 2012

Telecom Lead India: Cable digitization in India faces major technology challenges. In order to reach the benefits of digitization to customers, last mile providers should be equipped with competent technologies that can deliver high quality bundled services to customers, said Satyen Gupta Secy. General, NGN Forum India, at the recently held Broadcast Digitization Summit organized by Telecom  Lead.

According to Gupta, cable operators have enormous opportunities to monetize their service delivery by offering triple play and on-demand services; however, all of these require significant technology enhancements. In the present scenario, neither the government nor the operators are ready to invest hugely in infrastructure. The investment for this should come from third party infrastructure investment companies.

Cable operators do not have the fund or capacity to invest in technologies, says Gupta who pointed out that cable operators are special category of service providers who are never given a white collar status because they are engaged in the last mile work– the blue collar job of laying cable and serving customers at their homes. The last mile workers are suffering because of lack of money and lack of technologies.

The job of last mile player is to acquire and serve customer, and cable operators have acquired the skill to do that, so they should continue doing that, says Gupta. They are able to deliver customer service as per the requirement of the customer. They should identify new demands from the customer, deliver the service in a better manner and continue delivering it. Technological advancements will improve the service delivery.

There are two types of technologies: wired and wireless. For home, wired is the viable option in the long run, according to Gupta. Wireless technologies like DTH, WiMax and the like can deliver services to wireless devices. Cable service to the home has to be wired. It is the most economically viable option as it can bring the best economics by converging different services such as broadband, VAS and many more services which even customers are not aware of.

There are three types of technologies in the wired section – which are futuristic, have several standards and have been deployed in many countries like the U.S, Canada, Europe and Malaysia, says Gupta.

VDSL2+: This is similar to ADSL2+ used by MTNL. This technology makes your copper line a broadband connection. The technology theoretically promises a speed of 24 Mbps but in practice delivers only 2-4 Mbps. The performance is also affected by distance. The advanced VDSL2+ can offer up to 52Mpbs and is suitable for delivering videos, broadband and others. However, VDSL2+ has distance limitation. More research is going on and some countries are embracing these technologies.

DOCSIS: DOCSIS is an advanced technology that was initially used to carry digital signal in analog cable. When you think of digitizing cable, DOCSIS is one of the solutions, says Gupta. “The latest generation, the DOCSIS 3.0 can do wonders. In addition to carrying analog or video channel, separate spare bandwidth is used to carry data. DOCSIS 3.0 can deliver beyond 100 Mbps, and is capable of running more than 10 PCs and other applications like WiFi, high-speed broadband, video, etc. Additionally it provides security and encryption supported by the latest IPV6 standards, the next generation internet. The technology will give IP address to each element in your home, not only the devices connected to it. However, DOCSIS 3.0 also has distance limitations.”

HFC: Hybrid Fiber Coaxial (HFC), according to Gupta, addresses the issues mentioned above. This is more advanced and it supports all features of DOCSIS 3.0 and other advanced systems like CMPS. “In this you can retain the last mile with the same coaxial cable as it is, but in between you put a node, in the node you put a fiber, from the MS or the headend, you bring the fiber, take it to the node. From the node you can give whatever you want. In FTTH there is no copper. If you are using fiber for cable, you can use the line for delivering any service. The benefit of this technology is that you can upgrade to this using the existing infrastructure.”

However, the problem with FTTH is that it requires a lot of investment. The technology is very expensive. It has not gained wider popularity worldwide. Even major players like Comcast and Verizon have not embraced them widely. According to Gupta, the expense of FTTH deployment in India will cost Rs.15000 approximately per home. Considering the huge population in India, this would seem almost impossible. Currently no operator is willing to invest in this technology. Government is also not able to invest.

At present, cable operators, MSOs and government are not interested in investing money for expensive technologies. In this scenario, the investment can come from independent infrastructure provider who can invest in the last mile. If someone is interested they need to get the IP1 registration, and without any other license, they can invest. As per the new scheme introduced before six months, the last mile fiber or coaxial is now considered as infrastructure, so the investor is eligible for bank loan in the form of viability gap funding (VGF). The scheme is also available in urban areas in the form of Jawahar Lal Nehru Urban Development Plant. This investment can be done by an independent company, not necessarily MSOs or service providers. There can be a revenue sharing model in which the infrastructure provider or the broadband provider will get their share on the work-done-principle basis, Gupta said.

Such investments from third-party investors will make the services more competitive and efficient. According to Gupta, cable is the best and the most cost-effective channel to deliver triple-play services. If cable operators are provided with the infrastructure supported by these technologies, they can bring revolution in service delivery and surpass DTH operators in both cost and quality of services.

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