Not satisfied with RailTel Corporation, the railway subsidiary mandated to lay an optic fibre cable network along rail lines, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee plans to set up an expert committee headed by Sam Pitroda, the non-resident Indian who ushered in rural telecom exchanges in the 1980s, to suggest innovations and make the project commercially viable.
RailTel was set up in September 2000 with the objectives to create nationwide digital network to enable broadband communications. Banerjee was the railway minister then in an NDA government. “I had announced in 2001-02 Railway Budget laying of optic fibre cable (OFC) network along Railway tracks for commercial utilisation. After eight years, I find little progress,” said Mamta Banerjee in her rail budget speech.
The Indian Railways have a seamless right of way along 63,000 km of railway tracks. Some 32,000 km of cables have been laid already.
“The corporation should get a subsidy for laying OFC in unprofitable areas,” said B K Syngal, former chairman and managing director of Tata Communications Ltd (former Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd).