At launch, PM Modi hails optical fibre project
On December 30, 2018, the Prime Minister had laid the foundation for the 2,312-kilometre-long submarine optical fibre cable project connecting Chennai and Port Blair, capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.The project has been implemented at a cost of Rs 1,224 crore.Updated: Aug 11, 2020 01:37 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday launched the first undersea optical fibre project for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which will provide high-speed broadband connections in the Union territory at par with services available in the mainland, and likely open up new opportunities for India in South-east Asia .
“From Chennai to Port Blair, Port Blair to Little Andaman and Port Blair to Swaraj Dweep, this service has started in large parts of Andaman Nicobar from today,” Modi said after inaugurating the project through video conferencing.
On December 30, 2018, the Prime Minister had laid the foundation for the 2,312-kilometre-long submarine optical fibre cable project connecting Chennai and Port Blair, capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.The project has been implemented at a cost of Rs 1,224 crore.
Besides Port Blair, it will connect other islands including Swaraj Dweep (Havelock), Long Island, Rangat, Little Andaman, Kamorta, Car Nicobar and Greater Nicobar.
A bulk of the fibre used in the project has been sourced from NEC Corporation of Japan, which also provided technical assistance during the installation, said a Department of Telecommunications (DoT) official, requesting anonymity.
“The optical fibre connectivity project to connect Andaman and Nicobar with the rest of the country and the world is a symbol of our commitment towards ease of living,” Modi said.
According to official data, an internet speed of 400 gigabyte (Gb) per second will be provided in Port Blair and 200 Gb per second in other islands. The project will give a boost to 4G mobile services and digital services like tele-education, tele-health, e-governance services and tourism on the islands.
“High impact projects are being expanded in 12 islands of Andaman and Nicobar. Issue of mobile and internet connectivity have been resolved today. Apart from this, physical connectivity through road, air, and water are being strengthened,” Modi said.
The optical fibre facility will enable thousands of families in the Union territory to access education and banking services, and shop and consult doctors online.
The project will open up a host of opportunities for India in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, positioning it as an alternative to China, experts said. A majority of the submarine optical fibre for international connectivity in the region is now provided by China.
“This will open up more opportunities for India to interact with ASEAN countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos,” said former DoT secretary Shyamal Ghosh. “The PM had set up a line of credit to explore such options in 2017 but due to bureaucratic bottlenecks that hasn’t been able to move forward.”
Ghosh added that the inability of the countries to provide a sovereign guarantee for the line of credit, given that private companies mostly run the telecom sector, was a hurdle.
“These countries are also looking for an alternative, they don’t want to put all their eggs in the same basked,” he said. “In Andaman and Nicobar, the network will provide a stable connection as the previously used satellite was more dependent on availability of bandwidth, especially as the islands emerge as an important strategic and critical point in the Indian ocean.”
According former DoT technology advisor RK Bhatnagar, the submarine network in the second phase of connections could easily extend to countries like Singapore and Thailand.
“India is already having an offer of $1 billion line of credit for digital connectivity of ASEAN countries. Countries like Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam can take advantage to have their OFC digital highways connecting to India’s Northeastern states through protected ring architecture and extension by 700 kms provides Myanmar, other ASEAN countries and even India’s Northeastern states with better International bandwidth options,” said Bhatnagar, adding that this will be useful when India moves to 5G Networks.
The minister of Telecom Ravi Shankar Prasad added that the DoT aims to provide connectivity in remote and difficult areas. Prasad informed that a tender for 354 uncovered villages in the strategic, remote and border areas of the country has been finalised and is under implementation in 144 villages of the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh and remaining villages in the States of Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh and other priority areas of Gujarat. “These villages have been strategically choosen to cover border area connectivity on mobile. After commissioning of these villages, there will be no uncovered villages in UTs of J&K, Ladakh for mobile connectivity. Satellite based DSPTs (Digital Satellite Phone Terminal) are also being provided at 1347 sites for Army, BRO, BSF, CRPF, ITBP, SSB etc. Out of which 183 sites are already commissioned and remaining are in process,” he said.
The project launched on Monday aims to provide high-speed internet to boost the islands’ capabilities in terms of disaster mitigation, relief work and enable access to high-speed internet connectivity. This is the only undersea optical fiber cable network to be owned by the Indian government in the country presently. Private undersea networks already exist in Mumbai and Chennai, some of which the government had partnered with before Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd was merged with Tata Communications.
(PTI contributed to this story)