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Wednesday, Aug 27, 2003

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NHAI abandons plan to wire up highways

G. Rambabu

New Delhi , Aug. 26

MORE than a year after unveiling its ambitious plan of laying telecom ducts along the 10,000-km-long Golden Quadrilateral and North-South corridor, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has finally abandoned the exercise citing the low demand for optical fibre capacity.

According to official sources, the NHAI Chairman has written to Mr B.C. Khanduri, Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways, stating that the project has finally been shelved since it may be unviable, given the low demand for optical fibre capacity, even as many other telecom companies have huge excess capacity lying idle. The Minister had sought a status report on the issue from the Authority recently.

The sources pointed out that the matter had been mired in controversy ever since the NHAI board took a decision in June 2003 to lay, on its own, multiple permanently lubricated high density poly ethylene (HDPE) telecom ducts for optical fibre along the National Highways vested with it.

Since it is already in the process of development and modernisation of highways, it was felt that repeated digging of trenches for laying of cables/ducts, which is a safety hazard and impedes traffic, could be avoided by this. Four ducts were proposed to be laid alongside each other, with one reserved for the exclusive use of the Authority. The remaining three were to be leased out to other telecom operators.

The Authority had reasoned that since it had to lay a telecom duct to implement its highway traffic management system and toll facilities along highways, three additional ducts would just be an add-on, at a marginal incremental cost. The capacity could then be leased to other telecom operators to generate additional revenue.

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