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Coping With The Great Data Deluge

TRAI’s proposed consultation paper on the fast fiberisation of India is a timely move

Mobile telecommunications in India has been a remarkable success story raising the admiration as well as the envy of other nations. However, this achievement has happened concomitantly with significant shortcomings on the fixed line and optic fibre fronts. While growth of wireless subscribers has come at the heavy cost of fixed-line in India, other countries have had substantial growth in landline and fibre to at least a respectable base even as the wireless segment has grown.

The above unbalanced growth of Indian telecom in respect of landline and fibre vis-a-vis wireless is also a very worrying aspect for India’s ambitions in the data/broadband sector and, quite appropriately, TRAI has just announced that, in view of this “skewed development”, the Authority would soon be floating a Consultation Paper on Fiberisation — an initiative to be greatly lauded.

As per Deloitte’s Global Analysis, India has crossed the inflexion point for hyper Data Usage which happens when smartphone penetration crosses 25-30 per cent.

New challenges

Wireless networks alone simply cannot handle such data volumes and large scale deployment of fibre is a pre-requisite owing to its highest bandwidth carrying capacity — it offers virtually unlimited data, can travel long distance and can withstand extreme weather and terrain conditions. It has been deployed under oceans, in the difficult terrains of upper Himalayas and in extreme temperature scenarios. It is being used for applications that demand the utmost security — defence communication networks are today being built on fibre. Fibre, already a dominant technology in core and transport, is being considered for deployment for undersea cables, national long distance communication, domestic transmission and enterprise connectivity.

In terms of the total fibre deployed to population ratio, India lags far behind comparable regimes like the US and China. While the US has installed over 400 million km of fibre for less than one-third of our population and China has over a billion km of fibre, India has deployed only 100 million km.

The latest draft National Digital Communication Policy 2018 recognises that the digital era cannot happen without India marching toward the Fiber First initiative. The laying of 2,74,246 km of optic fiber connecting 1.15 lakh gram panchayats under BharatNet, steady increase in number of base stations and towers, the massive push to increase fiberisation of towers, the tremendous thrust to link up homes with fiber (FTTH) — these initiatives are humongous by any global standard. The government is not only recognising the importance of FTTH (Fibre to the Home) but also working towards smoothening of ease of business issues.

The latest buzz is FTTH which is expected to further explode the usage. Stirred by Reliance Jio’s latest offer on its JioGigaFiber (a bundled package of broadband and TV), Airtel, Vodafone/Idea and BSNL — all have come up with competitive offers and it appears that the interminable wait for broadband to reach the nooks and corners of the nation, is getting to be over. While general awareness of the need for optic fibre is building up, the importance of the quality aspect has not been appreciated sufficiently yet. The current deployments of fibre in India are majorly being done through ITU-T G.652 fibre which is a particular grade and quality of fibre. The usage of the inferior ITU-T G.652.B category in this category has become negligible as it is based on obsolete technology.

Hence, ITU-T G.652.D should become a minimum benchmark for deployments in India (both private and government projects). At the same time, since the Indian terrain is so diverse, increased usage of ITU-T G.657.A2 fibre is much more robust and imparts very low loss in challenging deployment scenario when fibre bends are high. G657.A2 optical fibre is becoming very popular in Data Centre and Enterprise network deployments.

Fiberisation of India’s Tower population is expected to rise to 60 per cent by FY20. Suitable Right of Way (RoW) rules are the key enabler for expediting the deployment of underground (optical fibre) and over ground (mobile towers) infrastructure in India but delays in approvals and excessive charge for RoW are adversely impacting the business viability.

Some other important challenges such as shortage of skilled labour and manpower to follow standard practices, provision for safe and secure storage of excess cable, excess fibre bending and splice loss in dusty environments need to be addressed.

Hence, to meet the real-time demand for FTTH, a solution which enables fast and reliable connectivity to empower operators to complete home pass readiness in the shortest possible deployment time and at the lowest Total Cost of Ownership (TOC) is vital. This is especially true in the case of Multi-Dwelling Units (MDUs). The Multi Dwelling Unit (MDU) is a customised solution for connecting multiple houses within the same multi-storied building with a single Antenna/Reflector to receive Direct-to-Home services.

Smarter MDU Plug and Play Passive Solution brings such a solution to the industry, with global telecom players already saving between 40 and 50 per cent deployment time, along with 33 per cent reduction on man-hours used, for FTTH projects. Leveraging the latest GPON standards and fibre types, the Plug and Play kit eases network operation and maintenance by overcoming high-bend losses within buildings, empowering service providers to deliver consistent and better customer experience over its lifetime.

By significantly reducing installation time and minimising costs of deployment of fibre networks, global telecom operators as well as ISPs can meet demand in real-time, ensuring they can remain competitive and profitable.

To cater to the requirement of the demand of high speed connectivity and to give way for Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, smart homes and autonomous vehicles, India needs to urgently accord more importance to deployment of fiber.

The government’s Fibre First initiative is, therefore, a most welcome step and the time for action is now. We hope that the proposed TRAI Consultation and the subsequent recommendations will help address the issues pertaining to the fibre cables and provide India the fibre base it desperately needs.

The writer is President, Broadband India Forum. Views are personal. Research inputs by Abhijit Panicker and Garima Kapoor. – The Hindu Business Line

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