The project is aimed at connecting 250,000 village administrative units through the national optic fiber network by November 2013NEW DELHI, INDIA: As additional secretary, DIT and USO (Universal Services Obligation) Fund administrator N Ravi Shanker is committed to see the roll out of the national optic fiber network by November, 2013. In an interaction with CIOL's Muntazir Abbas, Ravi Shanker speaks on government's ambition to facilitate low-cost broadband services
CIOL: With USO fund, will the Centre be able to achieve the desired optic-fiber goals within the pre-defined timeframe?
Ravi: Yes. Of course. The government is dedicated to connect 250,000 village (panchayats) administrative units through the national optic fiber network by November, 2013. The project is partly financed by USO fund.
CIOL: The ground work for this ambitious project is apparently in sluggish pace. What according to you are the pain points?
Ravi: We have already begun the process for the roll out. The government recently convened a high-level meeting and sought suggestions from the technical advisory committee. We have already discussed technical specifications with the industry to overcome the challenges.
CIOL: But what exactly is the real roadblock?
Ravi: Right of Way (RoW) is the biggest challenge today. The Centre is initiating dialogue with the state governments in order to facilitate transmission lines to districts and towns en route villages. The Central government is funding the entire project, whereas state governments are not required to pay anything for rural deployment.
CIOL: Which are the government organizations enshrined with optic fiber rollout?
Ravi: Three PSUs bid out the entire project. BSNL, RailTel and PowerGrid will lay out 25 lakh kilometer route of fiber throughout the country.
CIOL: Once the fiber cable is laid, what would be the process to attract private telcos? Marred by uncertainty, aren't they reluctant to invest?
Ravi: Private operators will have a role in services offering. The government will take bandwidth charges from telcos for using the optic-fibre network. We are talking to service providers, and consulting all stakeholders. Once we get it done, we'll again approach the industry.
CIOL: What is the key objective for such a project at a gigantic expenditure?
Ravi: The government is filling the telecommunication gap in rural areas. We are facilitating the infrastructure for cheaper broadband services. With such a program, the government strives to offer e-medicine, e-education and e-commerce services to hundreds of millions individuals residing in rural and remote inhabitation.
CIOL: When will the government undertake the pilot project?
Ravi: We'll start soon, probably in next 2-3 months.