The government is working on a proposal that would benefit incumbent service providers and infrastructure firms to significantly increase fibre deployment that could facilitate Wi-Fi hotspots and enhance fourth generation or 4G coverage in the country.
“We are working on a scheme wherein service operators or infrastructure companies can take fibre from BharatNet to the towers. This is apart from taking fibre for mobile connectivity,” telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan told ET.
Currently, only 22% of the 4.70 lakh telecom towers in India are fiberised, which is an essential backhaul requirement for high-speed data network deployments.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is planning to provide access to optic fibre cable deployed under the ambitious Bharat-Net initiative to nearby telecom towers that would also eventually help in rolling out public Wi-Fi hotspots.
“Tower companies are keen to take fibre to the towers. Telcos want to upgrade to 4G, and for that they need fibre,” the top official added.
The department has recently held talks with telecom infrastructure firms led by lobby group Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (Taipa) to speed up fiberisation of tower infrastructure. The group has proposed free Right-of-Way (RoW) and monetisation opportunities for the governmentowned dark fibre.
Bharti Infratel chairman Akhil Gupta headed Taipa felt that the demand must come from the service providers, and tower firms, due to growing data demand, would take up fibre distribution in tier-I cities, to start with. “Due to public Wi-Fi rollout, all telecom service providers have agreed to fast-track 4G rollouts,” Sundararajan said, adding that there was a big acceleration in 4G play as the government mulls viability gap funding under the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) for Wi-Fi initiative.
The industry estimates say fibreconnected towers would grow from 90,000 at present to 330,000 by 2020. “Tower companies should either deploy fibre at their own to existing tower base rapidly or use new BharatNet networks that are connecting rural India,” said Anand Agarwal, group CEO of Sterlite Tech. Agarwal said it would be a win-win situation as the initiative would improve service quality with a reduction in deployment time, and added that the ecosystem should achieve 4G network requirements and move faster towards 100% fiberisation. – Gadgets Now