Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state Gujarat, in a pursuit to deliver 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) Internet speed to as many as 19,000 villages has initiated a service-centric strategy to deploy Centre’s ambitious BharatNet initiative, under which it has already laid as much as 18,000 kilometres optical fibre-based network in 10 months.
"We have added 18,000 kilometres of fibre in a record time of 10 months with proactive support of ecosystem players including state-run Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) and vendors-consortium which has been delivering well on quality as well as quantity,” Dharmendra Sharma, Director— Gujarat Fibre Grid Network Limited (GFGNL) told ETT.
The GFGNL is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) of the Gujarat government.
The Gujarat government has taken a novel approach through Service Level Agreement (SLA)-led strategy with 99.5% uptime and has allowed virtually free Right-of-Way (RoW) permissions to deploy digital infrastructure at state-owned land parcels.
Companies such as Sterlite Technologies Limited (STL), Himachal Futuristic Communications Limited (HFCL) and Vindhya Telelinks Limited (VTL), according to the official, had withdrawn after pre-bids following the high service levels adherence requirement.
3,200 gram panchayats (GP) or village blocks have so far become up and operational of the totaled 7,700, Sharma said, and added that the ambitious program would be completed by March 2020 deadline.
“We are on track with a target of 36,000 kilometres of optic fibre deployment in the next four months, and are currently undertaking more than 800 kilometres of trenching every week,” Sharma added.
Gujarat is one of the eight states implementing the federal network initiative on its own, and has divided the mega initiative under two categories – Package A, bagged by ITI; and Package B won by GTPL Hathway-Polycab Wires consortium.
The state fibre network, as a part of Package A, deployed 6,500 kilometres of fibre together with 1,425 village blocks operational while it has laid 8,900 kilometre of fibre network as a part of Package B by making as many as 1,750 village blocks up and running out of a total of 3,767.
The GFGNL, according to the top official, is also planning to install 400 optical line termination (OLT) exchanges, which has in-principal approval to use state government-owned buildings and land.
With such exchanges, the Gujarat government aims to cut dependence on Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and that too at a cost coming lesser than what the agency pays to telecom carrier for an annual operational expense (Opex).
“Being the state’s dream project, we are looking at the highest quality standards as well as cost-efficiency,” Sharma added.
The agency has the mandate to connect at least five public offices in each block.
With a total of 65,590 village blocks, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana are doing BharatNet phase -II program under the state-led model.
The Department of Telecom (DoT) data reveals that of the total of 2.5 lakh village blocks across India, only 1,42,678 of them were connected with 3,88,838 kilometres of optic fibre cable (OFC) deployed as of November 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi government is banking on the Pan-India fibre network which would also serve as a backbone to the prestigious Digital India umbrella program, aimed to deliver an array of citizen-centric services digitally cutting corruption and red tape.
The national program originally conceived under the UPA-II government in 2011, has missed several deadlines since then while the Narendra Modi-led NDA government has set March 2020 as a new cutoff date with nearly 40% of work still remain unfinished.
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