Procedural hassles hamper optic fibre cable rollout

Lack of coordination among the implementing agencies and procedural delays have pushed back the Rs 20,000-crore National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) project by almost a year.

The project, which is expected to reach broadband services to rural areas, is being done under a new entity called Bharat Broadband Network Ltd but the laying the optical cable is being carried out by public sector companies which already own some optical fibre cable.

At a recent meeting, Bharat Broadband Nigam Ltd complained that there was no harmony in the tendering and execution process among the public sector companies. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, Powergrid and RailTel are supposed to lay the additional cables required to connect all the villages.

The meeting was attended by Nandan Nilekani, Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India, and Sam Pitroda, Adviser to the PM on Public Infrastructure, Information and Innovations. Nilekani, who is also the Co-Chairman of the high-level committee monitoring the cable project, pointed out that none of the major work including field survey and procurement of equipment has been completed.

The Government has set a target for operationalising the project by November next year but going by the current pace of activities the actual work may get delayed by 7-8 months.

Apart from procedural delays, lack of a proper business case is also plaguing the project. During the meeting, BSNL’s Chairman said that there were no takers for its broadband connections in rural areas. The PSU wanted the Government to drive usage by undertaking e-governance projects in a big way.

Technology to be used

Meanwhile, the Department of Telecom is mulling whether to accept a proposal from the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) for supply of technology for this project. The C-DoT had written to the DoT that it has developed cutting-edge technology called Gigabit capable Passive Optical Network (GPON) which can be used for the optic fibre cable project. GPON technology is used for broadband connectivity over optical fibre. C-DOT has indigenously designed and developed GPON technology, which can be used to provide triple play (voice, video and data) through fibre-based networks. The present GPON standards specify 2.5 gbps (gigabit per second) downstream and 1.25 gbps upstream data capability to customer premise.

But there are concerns within DoT about the capacities built by C-DoT partners for manufacturing equipment based on this technology.

(This article was published on November 25, 2012)
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