Indian Railways telecom plans for 2020 hang in balance

Telecom Lead India: Indian Railways is looking at
spending Rs 39,110 crore in the next 5 years for telecom and signaling. The
current turmoil faced by the UPA government after presenting 2012-13 rail
budget is likely to add pressure on all telecom expansion plans envisaged for
2020. Without implementing the proposals in the current budget, including increase in passenger fare, future telecom expansion will be in jeopardy.

As per Indian Railwayss’ 2020 vision, it is considering
launching Rail TV channel to make extra revenue streams. The plan, according to
a 2010-11 document, is under consideration of ICT expert Committee headed by
Sam Pitroda. The content management and revenue sharing proposal should be
detailed by Commercial and PR wings of Railwayss.


The Indian Railwayss is also looking at revenue generation
potential in the telecom and IT sector, using the 64,000-km long right of way
for laying optic fibers, signaling towers and other infrastructure assets that
Indian Railwayss owns.


This will be done in collaboration between the RailTel
Corporation and private sector companies in a transparent framework. Three
proposals are under consideration of ICT expert Committee headed by Sam Pitroda for expanding the RailTel business.


These projects include:

(a) Provision of OFC on balance 15,000 Rkms of Indian Railways

(b) Provision of Broadband connectivity to 50,000 Panchayats
using RailTel’s existing OFC network.

(c) Provision of Broadband services to public on RailTel OFC
network on PPP basis.


Proposals may be funded either on PPP basis or partly
through Universal Service Obligation (USO) fund kept with Ministry of
Communications & Information Technology (Department of Telecommunications)
for extending communication services to remote areas of the country.


The 2010-11 document says provision of OFC on balance 15000
Rkms is expected to be completed by 2014. Broadband connectivity to 50000
Panchayats is likely to take off by March 2011 for completion by 2015.


The Railways ministry feels that there is a need to setup
high speed communication network to carry voice, video & data traffic. This high speed
communication network will provide a common pipe for transmission of
information relating to all IT, voice & video applications. This network is
proposed to be provided on all high density routes by 2020.


The action plan of implementation of this network is as


Works proposal will be processed for implementation of 2,000
Rkm of this network in 2011-12 & is expected to complete in the same year
itself. Works proposal for 10,000 Rkm will be processed by 2012- 13 so as to
complete the implementation by 2015-16. Work for implementation of this networks on another 8,000 km will be processed by 2015-16
for completion before 2020.


The railways ministry is also considering a satellite-based
train tracking system to provide real-time information on train location to passengers through a
variety of devices including mobile phones.


Proposal for provision for Satellite Imaging for Rail
Navigation (SIMRAN) system based on performance of a pilot project jointly by
RDSO/LKO and IIT/Kanpur is under consideration of ICT expert committee headed
by Sam Pitroda.


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