The debate over Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum auctions and internet telephony comes at a time when international organizations and analysts are painting a starkly contrasting picture of the Indian telecom and IT sectors. Recent International Telecommunication Union (ITU) data reveals that the success of India’s telecom revolution is restricted to mobile voice with very little to showcase in fixed line and internet access, or high-speed broadband. For a country that is the global IT and ITeS capital or the world’s back office, its own internet penetration remains one of the lowest in the world. Forecasts are equally uninspiring, projecting high-speed internet access to remain abysmal till 2012. Internet broadband penetration will limp along to eventually reach a measly 3.
Bangladesh and India are set to compete for the same set of telecom investors with Bangladesh announcing auctions for Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum close on the heels of India unveiling its BWA policy. However, while Bangladesh’s policy is designed to attract fresh competition by keeping its existing operators and their shareholders (foreign and Bangladeshi) out of the spectrum bids, India has opted for a different route. India has restricted BWA bidding to only those who either hold an ISP or a unified access service (UAS) licence, thereby either forcing companies to acquire ISP/UAS licenses before the bidding or keeping away new entrants who are unable to acquire such licences due to price or time constraints. “Other contrasts are equally striking and show up uncomfortable flaws with India’s auction guidelines,” says a telecom analyst. While India’s BWA guidelines are just four pages, Bangladesh’s is a 57-page invitation for applications for grant of licence.
LIRNEasia’s ‘Rapid Response Program’ is exactly what the name suggests. We react to immediate information needs of telecom regulators, at short notice. The response might not be lengthy and as comprehensive as we would like it to be, but nevertheless helpful, as Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) have realised. LIRNEasia saw BTRC’s move to issue three new Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) licenses a positive development, as Bangladesh is certainly not a country that can boast of quality and affordable broadband. This is what we learnt from our research: Exceptionally high cost of broadband remains a key barrier that prevents the development of the BPO industry in Bangladesh.
Hong Kong’s Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) says that it wants to auction off spectrum in the 2.3GHz band for wireless broadband – and is also considering what to do with the 2.5GHz band. In what it described as its “third consultation” on broadband wireless access, OFTA says it wants to allocate 85MHz of spectrum between 2.305 and 2.