Central government is working with state ministry officials to ensure that laying of fibre is put on a fast track.
As India moves towards the next technological revolution — 5G where applications for e-health, e-education, e-governance among others will gain prominence, a rapid fibre deployment will assume critical importance in achieving this feat. Infrastructure and Right of Way (RoW) – the two key issues that need to be focused upon is required even for expansion of existing 4G services with fibre deployment in the backhaul. The RoW guidelines facilitate a quicker acquisition of land for setting up mobile towers and laying fibre.
To fasten RoW processes, the government has called a meeting of all the state IT secretaries with state ministry officials from home, health and posts to ensure RoW for laying down fibre is put on a fast track, a senior official from the department of telecommunications said. Through BharatNet, the government is laying down optic fibre across all gram panchayats to provide broadband in rural areas. The first phase, which will connect 100,000 gram panchayats, has already been completed while the rest of 150,000 gram panchayats would also be connected soon.
From gram panchayats level, the fibre will then be taken to home premises, where government entities, as well as private players, are participating to offer last mile connectivity. For this, RoW across states need to be fastened to meet the target of offering internet connectivity across India in the next 3-4 years.
“A committee in each state will be set up which will look into RoW issues for fibre deployment. This is important as even developmental institutions, schools, post offices, police stations will be connected through WiFi hotspots,” the official said.
Ashish Sharma of PwC says a right way to address the concerns of the telecom industry is to lower down cost structure which will happen when more fibre gets laid down. “The government has recognised that and that’s why has come up with a fibre first policy,” said Sharma.
The new digital communications policy, which was approved by the Cabinet recently, talks about the implementation of a “Fibre First Initiative to take fibre to the home. It will also give telecom infrastructure the status of “critical and essential infrastructure”.
Apart from this, even towers in the telecom industry are far behind the ideal target of fiberisation required for high-speed applications in 5G. Currently, in India, only around 25% of towers are fiberised while globally, it is around 70-80%. Once the global standards are achieved in India, the rollout of 4G across India will be completed in an efficient manner, and there will be a smooth transition to 5G.
Telecom tower players have already initiated discussions with the department of telecommunications to lease fibre from BharatNet.
“The modalities are yet to be finalised. This will enable the players to save 30-50% in laying down their own fibres. The plan is to lease fibre from a gram panchayat and then take it to the tower,” according to another official from the DoT.
If finalised, the proposal will enable telecom players to offer improved quality of services and network coverage, especially data services including 4G, as fibre has more capacity and can cater to a wider base of users. Even for emerging technologies including 5G, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and machine to machine communications, fibre is key, according to experts.
“With less than 25% towers fiberised, fibre leasing market represents a $2.6 billion market by FY20. The estimates imply that fiberised towers will increase from 90,000 to 3,30,000 by FY 20,” Tilak Raj Dua, director general, TAIPA (Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association), said. – Zee Business