Airtel, RCoM DTH to offer broadband

Telecom majors Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications (RCOM), which are set to make their Direct To Home (DTH) foray by the year-end, plan to have a key differentiator from existing players in this space. Bharti and RCOM are looking at providing satellite-based broadband internet services along with their DTH offerings. Globally, a number of DTH majors, especially in the US have adopted this strategy. Bharti’s and RCOM’s move may also prompt Dish TV, country’s largest private DTH player to enter this space in the coming months.

“Satellite internet is a North American model. There are a lot of areas where Bharti would possibly never lay copper cable as it does not make economic sense. In these areas, Bharti will look at a offering broadband through Wi-Max or through DTH,” Bharti Airtel president, broadband and telephone services, Atul Bindal told

Similarly, RCOM’s DTH venture, which is called BlueMagic is also looking at satellite internet services as one of the key differenciators. RCOM sources said that along this facility, the company was also looking at an entire gamut of voice and data services, including facilities like video on demand to offer higher interactivity to subscribers using its digital TV platform.

If Dish TV chooses to offer this facility, it has an added advantage in the fact that its promoters, the Essel Group already has a 50:50 JV with the Shyam Communication (called Essel Shayam Communication) which offers broadband satellite communications solutions in India.

Satellite internet is considered as ideal solution for rural users who want broadband services, but do not have access to telephone lines and cable systems. A combined offering with DTH also makes satellite internet economical. This is because, standalone satellite internet services works out to be expensive proposition as it requires a satellite dish for two-way (upload and download) data communications.

Despite 2007 being labelled as the ‘year of broadband’ by the department of telecom (DoT), high-speed internet services have hardly taken off in India. The country had a total of 2.46 million broadband connections as of May end. “During May 2007 there is addition of 0.04 million connections compared to 0.13 million added during April 2007. This indicates negative growth pattern for broadband subscribers,” telecom regulator Trai said in its latest report. India is also set to fall shot of its target of nine million broadband users by 2007 end by a huge margin.