Commercial use of bandwidth in North-East

Power Grid Corporation of India has sought compensation from state-owned teleco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), for commercial use of its bandwidth in the North Eastern Region. Cost details are to be worked out soon.

Bandwidth refers to the amount of data carried from one point to another in a given time period (usually a second). PowerGrid, an electricity transmission company, has an optical fibre network (for Internet connectivity) of nearly 25,000 km as a part of its diversification programme.

BSNL would require additional bandwidth to provide “last mile connectivity” in the North-East, strengthen its existing capacities and “boost their revenue”, according to a meeting between the two held recently.

“…if BSNL wish to utilise the bandwidth taken from PowerGrid for commercial purposes, then they should compensate PowerGrid on market driven bandwidth prices,” the record notes of the meeting maintain.

At present, Internet connectivity to the North-East is through two routes. One in Assam is via the circuitous ‘chicken’s neck region’ including Siliguri in West Bengal. The second route is the Dharmanagar (Tripura) – Shillong (Meghalaya) – Kolkata (West Bengal) route.

BSNL and PowerGrid are to work together to arrive at a mechanism that will have a fixed cost component based on capital expenditure incurred and a market-driven variable based on commercial usage (of bandwidth).

Connectivity Issues

Market sources maintain that Internet connectivity in the North East has long been an issue. Assam and the other Dharmanagar–Shillong–Kolkata route are unstable and subject to frequent disconnection because of natural calamities.

BSNL, however, is yet to provide connectivity in Aizwal (Mizoram) and Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh), despite leasing the required optical fibre network from Power Grid. An alternative route through Bangladesh is now being worked on for better connectivity in the region.

PowerGrid maintained that bandwidth be used for “protecting BSNL networks” i.e. improving connectivity and not for commercial usage. BSNL, however, insisted on the latter as “their bandwidth requirement is mainly to meet the demand of enterprise customers”.

According to BSNL estimates, it would incur around Rs 12 crore as capital expenditure and another Rs 7 crore as annual recurring cost for improving connectivity in north east.

The project cost, PowerGrid estimates, will, however, go up to at least Rs 21 crore. The cost would go up accordingly, if PowerGrid was to install new equipment. Details are being worked out.

(This article was published on August 15, 2013)
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