Makeover Okay, but will optic fiber rollout project ‘BharatNet’ fructify this time?

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From linear architecture to ring architecture, from GPON technology to IP-MPLS system, the government’s fiber optic rollout initiative BharatNet or National Optic Fiber Network (NOFN) project has undergone massive restructuring so that after missing two earlier deadlines, it does not fail this time.


But the big question is: Whether this time, the project will hit its stipulated time-frame of completion? In the first phase of the project, about 100,000 Gram Panchayats were to be covered by March, 31, 2014 and the next 100,000 by March 31, 2015 and the rest 50,000 by September 30, 2015. But to date, only 20,000 Gram Panchayats have been covered so far. And now, the deadline for the first phase has been revised to December 2018.

Meanwhile, consider this: Today, about 350 km for duct and 250 km of cable laying is taking place per day which needs to be ramped by up by five-to-six times if we need to achieve the target of covering 2.5 lakh GPs by December 2018. Peeyush Agrawal, ITS, Member (Technology), Department of Telecommunications, Government of India, said that though the project has been delayed but the government is working to ensure that the project does not fail this time.

The Government of India along with Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) are reworking to achieve the target of connecting 2.5 lakh villages with broadband under the program within the stipulated time-frame as the project is critical to the success of the Prime Minister’s Digital India program of building a 24x7 connectivity between the government and the people.After missing two earlier deadlines, the government has restructured the program wholly, and now it is seeking private partnership for the project.

“In case of NOFN, we have not done enough planning and have given ourselves unrealistic targets. Creation of the right ecosystem and involvement of private players in the project will help us to succeed this time,” MF Farooqui, IAS, Chairman, Broadband India Forum (BIF) said at the 12th International Conference Broadband Tech India 2015 at New Delhi, organised by Bharat Exhibitions.

He said, “The implementation of these would attract more capital in the telecom structure in the country. The Centre has issued new guidelines to the states on critical issues in the spread of BharatNet like granting right of way to the fibre cables and setting up of telecom towers.”

Among the problems faced in implementing broadband networks was the Right of Way policy, commenting on the infrastructure part of it, TR Dua, Director General, Tower & Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), asked how many more towers could be set up when in Delhi itself the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) is charging Rs 7.5 crores for a two kilometre right away. “Telecom Infrastructure roadblocks are a major impediment in moving to Digital India,” said Dua.

Shyam P Mardikar, Chief - Strategy, Architecture Engineering, Bharti Airtel, said: “India was four or five times behind others in building telecom towers. We are ready to take up the challenge even though future turns into present faster than we can tackle it.”

With India also wanting to touch broadband speed of 100 Mbps in the coming years from the present 2Mbps, the country had a long way to go from its present position of rank 117 in the average net speed.

During the conference, the other related issues creating bottlenecks in setting up the networks and the severe constraints on expanding the housetop telecom towers came into focus as the service operators and network installers tried to identify the reasons why the country was falling behind even less developed neighbouring countries in this area.

Arvind Kumar, Advisor (Network, Spectrum & Licensing - I), Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), said that the telecom regulatory had recently issued a consultation paper listing three models for enabling a change in architecture so as to negate the broadband based on fiber or wireless due to low satisfactory level of service. He suggested an intense public response and suggestions on the models suggested in the consultation paper available on the regulator’s website.

Having said all, the moot point still remains that how long our rural populace will be deprived of broadband connectivity in the country?

Reported By

Having over six years of experience in business journalism, Krishna has a knack for writing on telecom and IT. She believes that tryst with technology is the best thing that has ever happened to mankind. Krishna is a telecom analyst

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