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Broadband on steroids

Will a new wireless technology change the way you surf?

Kushan Mitra | Print Edition: Nov 28, 2010

Long years of waiting for real broadband speeds - India defines Internet speeds over 256 kilobits per second (kbps) as broadband - in the country may be over.

Despite tall claims by technology companies and telecom administrators about the spread of broadband, by the end of 2010 there are unlikely to be more than 10 million broadband connections in India. And, by the international definition of "highspeed" Internet - over one megabits per second (mbps) - only a quarter of those subscribers fit the bill.

Why has high-speed Internet not taken off in India? The problem simply is that getting the high-speed Direct Subscriber Line (DSL) connection into a house is expensive and time-consuming for telecom operators.

Despite the seemingly attractive high-speed packages, limits on downloads and splitting of high-speed DSL connections among multiple customers have not helped. Much as this will sound like sales spiel, fear not, there is a new technology in town.

Called Long-Term Evolution, or LTE, many people describe it as fourth-generation technology in the telecom business. LTE can offer very, very fast data connections. At a recent demonstration by telecom equipment maker Nokia Siemens Networks, speeds of over 100 mbps over an LTE network were demonstrated.

As NSN reminded everyone around, the demonstration was done on commercially available networks. Telecom companies will argue that third-generation (3G) networks allow high-speed data access, but the meagre spectrum licensed to them by the government will mean data speeds of less than one-fifth of what LTE can offer. And because operators will also be offering voice services, data connectivity over 3G, while being initially fast, could get overwhelmed by hundreds of millions of voices.

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