Targets expansion of user base to 25,000 by end of financial year

RailTel Corporation of India (RailTel), the telecommunications arm of the Railways, is expanding its project to take high-speed internet to rural homes in Tamil Nadu by linking its optic fibre network to existing cable TV connections.

RailTel has entered into revenue-sharing partnerships that allow multi-system operators (MSOs) and local cable operators (LCOs) to draw from its optic fibre cable (OFC) points of presence (PoP) established along railway lines across the State to provide last-mile connectivity to rural households.

Brand RailWire currently delivers Internet speeds ranging from 256 kbps to 10 mbps to about 2,500 subscribers in 16 of the 32 districts in the State. The business is growing at the rate of about 3,000 new connections every month, officials said.

“We are targeting expansion of the user base to 25,000 Internet connections in Tamil Nadu by the turn of this financial year,” said S. Selvadurai, RailTel general manager.

RailTel is also working out the modalities of a memorandum of understanding with Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable Corporation for accessing remote areas.

The firm is also eyeing other southern markets such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, where it has over 10,000 km of OFC.

In Tamil Nadu alone, RailTel has 2,500 km of OFC and about 400 PoPs. RailTel has already negotiated contracts with about 20 MSOs and 133 LCOs, and is looking to expand these partnerships, officials said.

Under these agreements, the LCO will bear the cost of laying the last-mile cables connecting RailTel’s PoPs with households with cable TV as well as upkeep cost. The LCO will also provide the modem switch that separates TV signals from Internet data that is streamed to a personal computer.

Simultaneously, RailTel has roped in a management service provider who will maintain a network operating centre — currently located in Bangalore, though the plan is to have one at RailTel’s Chennai office — and will also be responsible for business development and operating a 24/7 customer care help desk.

Though RailWire offers Internet speeds of up to 10 mbps, the bulk of the subscribers are happy with speeds ranging between the basic 256 kbps and 1mbps, officials said.

Competitive tariffs

The tariffs are competitive, ranging from the base rental of Rs. 299 for 256 kbps to Rs. 1,099 per month for a 10-mbps connection that offers 40 GB date usage under fair usage norms.

“We plan to roll out value-added services ranging from e-ticketing via IRCTC to e-governance initiatives,” said R. Bhaskaran, group general manager, RailTel.