TRAI tries to revive BharatNet with a new paper on optical fiber network

LazrSPEED 550 WideBand Multimode Fiber
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Wednesday issued a consultation paper on rolling out the national optical fiber network, renamed BharatNet.

The aim is to give the much needed oxygen to the dead broadband project of India.

After the consultation, the Union government will decide whether to follow PSU-led implementation model or state Government-led model or private sector-led model (EPC/Consortia) or a combination of all these to revive the Rs 20,000 crore plus project.

Though the Indian telecom regulator on April 17 had recommended measures to roll out the network for building broadband highways for ushering in Digital India, it did not take off due to lack of consensus on the mode of implementation.

“The regulator has looked into Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (Boot) as an alternate model for implementing the ambitious national network project,” said TRAI in a statement.

An expert committee of the department of telecommunications (DoT) also submitted its report to the telecom regulator with three implementation models.

TRAI posted the consultation paper on its website — — for comments from stakeholders by December 7, 2015.

The consultation paper raises policy issues on implementing the national project and DoT’s recommendation of three models with risks and advantages.

The paper also deals with challenges of the Boot model, eligibility criteria for the executing agency to avoid conflict of interest and monopoly and means of funding.

For the state-run Digital India program, the minister of IT and Communications plans to connect all the six-lakh villages and 250,000 panchayats (local bodies) through the optical fibre-based broadband network over the next three years to offer public services to the people across the country.
TRAI Chairman RS Sharma
A new NOFN?

The Indian telecom industry has seen the near death of the much publicized National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) project, which was approved on October 25, 2011 by the then UPA Government under the Congress Party.

As per its vision document, NOFN project aims to extend the existing optical fiber network to Panchayats by utilizing Universal Service Obligation Funds (USOF) and creating an institutional mechanism for management and operation of NOFN.

The government set up Bharat Broadband Network (BBNL), a special purpose vehicle (SPV), in 2011, for the operation of NOFN. It hired several government employees to run the show.

NOFN planned to lay optical fiber cable (OFC) connecting 250,000 GPs of the country. The project was to use the existing OFC of BSNL, which is ready up to 6,500 odd Blocks. Only the incremental fiber averaging around 2.4 km per GP was planned to be laid.

Three government entities BSNL, RailTel and PGCIL in the ratio of 70:15:15 decided to roll out the fiber network. BBNL received NLDO license to become a wholesale bandwidth provider. Indian telecoms would have received access to BBNL network.

The network did not take off though the government had committed Rs 20,000 crore to complete the India broadband project in two years from 2011. It was later decided that the project can be completed with less amount as compared with the earlier estimates of Rs 20,000 crore.

TRAI is encouraging the participation of private players to revive the optical fiber project. But who will work with state and Union governments due to red-tapism?

Baburajan K
[email protected]