The major beneficiary of this is the State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) as Kerala accounts for nearly 15 per cent of its fixed-line subscribers.
According to the figures available with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Kerala had 30.78 lakh BSNL connections as on January 31, leaving behind States such as Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Compared to other States, Dr P.T. Mathew (Principal General Manager, Kochi) said, most of cables laid all over Kerala are by BSNL; the company has made 75 per cent of the coverage here. This has enhanced the quality of service compared to other operators. Another reason he cited for the demand is the quality of speech on landlines compared to mobile phones. This has benefited senior citizens.
Demands on the humble land phone have grown after the advent of the IT revolution. As optical fibre has enabled access to data and broadband connectivity to every home, the profile of the land phone has changed in Kerala. This was mainly spurred by the high literacy rate in the State. With the State having the highest number of BSNL landline connections, where else would the customer look for a broadband connection.
While private players are more entrenched in the cities, BSNL landlines have a significant presence across the State — in the rural pockets, towns and cities. And with high literacy being a universal feature across the state, there is strong demand for broadband connectivity in both towns and villages.
Dr Mathew said that BSNL has a broadband penetration of around 18 per cent across Kerala. Efforts are under way to enhance this to 25 per cent shortly. But what is fascinating about the Kerala story is that its broadband connectivity is not concentrated at the metros and large cities alone, but has spread out to the countryside as well.
The company is trying to provide more broadband connections, as the State had a 5.5-lakh subscriber base as on January 31.
The company is planning to add 50,000 more connections in the next fiscal. In its efforts to increase broadband connectivity, BSNL is in the process of laying “fibre to home” which would enable the subscriber to receive voice services as well as IPTV in high bandwidth. The target is to provide 15,000 connections in the next fiscal.
On the mobile segment, he said the number portability has evoked good response in Kerala, enabling BSNL to add around 3.5 lakh customers from private operators. The mobile-phone subscriber base had touched 69 lakh as on January 31. The aim is to add another 15 lakh by next fiscal, he adde
(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 29, 2012)