Despite strong reservations from the Telecom Regulator, telecom minister Kapil Sibal has said that the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) will be tasked with creating a massive optic-fibre network across the country.
Speaking at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva today, Sibal said that “initially,” BSNL will be in charge of the roll-out.
According to the Plan, the Government will invest around $5-6 billion (Rs 25,000-30,000 crore) to set up a high-capacity optical fibre network. Once the network is set up, all private telecom players will be allowed to plug into it and use it, thereby resolving the lack of internal connectivity in India.
Despite great growth in mobile data, India suffers from poor inland high-speed data connectivity, primarily due to the lack of private sector players and hurdles like getting right-of-way in the land-line phone business.
Because of the lack of a robust Internet backbone spread across the country, bandwidth and therefore Internet access, costs are higher, particularly at higher speeds of 2 Mbps and above.
“The Government has finalized the ‘National Broadband Plan’ which will build the OFC network, an open access optical fibre network connecting all 2.5 lakh Village Panchayats spread across country, by utilizing the Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF) and creating an institutional mechanism for management and operation of the NOFN (National Optical Fibre Network) for ensuring non-discriminatory access to all service providers,” Sibal told the conference.
While the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had suggested setting up a new agency, Sibal said the BSNL — which has the biggest existing fibre network in the country — will handed over the charge of creating and running the network “in initial stages.”
There will be a “dedicated project implementation team, consisting of carefully chosen personnel from various organizations including BSNL,” he explained.
There will be yet another ‘High Level Committee’ for “policy decisions, supervision and control.”
“Scope of work, execution strategy, funding requirement and time frame for the execution of the programme i.e. creation of NOFN will be decided by this HLC depending on the funds made available from USOF, response from State Governments regarding Right of Way issues and the projected traffic demand while committing to provide OFC connectivity upto Village Panchayats,” he added.
Obviously a believer in the principle of ‘the more, the merrier,’ Sibal also detailed yet another “advisory body,” this time consisting of the big telecom operators (private and government owned) and experts.