India’s Telco and Infrastructure Groups: Fiber Optic Network Growth Essential

Growth in fiber optic network deployments are essential to further improve the quality of telecom services and support the surging mobile Internet demand as well as have potential to bring substantial social and economic benefits to consumers, businesses and state governments, India’s telco and infrastructure groups said.  The Delhi-based telecom body represents Reliance JioBharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

“Growth of fibre is the foremost priority for the ongoing exponential increase in data demand and improved quality of services,” the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) director-general SP Kochhar told ETTelecom.

Currently, India has an optical fiber-based network spanning across 28 lakh (100,000) kilometres as against the target set up by the National Broadband Mission to deploy as much as 50 lakh kilometres of optical fiber by 2024.

Kochhar’s views were seconded by the Towers and Infrastructure Providers Association (Taipa) that lobbies for companies such as Bharti Infratel, American Tower Corporation (ATC) India, Ascend Telecom Infrastructure, Indus Towers and Sterlite Technologies.

“The fiberisation of existing telecom infrastructure has the potential to bring substantial social and economic benefits to governments, citizens and businesses through an increase in productivity, competitiveness, improvements in service delivery, and optimal use of scarce resources like spectrum,” Tilak Raj Dua, director-general at Taipa said.

Editor’s Note:

The National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) is a project initiated in 2011 and funded by Universal Service Obligation Fund to provide broadband connectivity to over 200,000 gram panchayats of India at an initial cost of ₹200 billion (US$2.8 billion).  This is to be achieved utilizing the existing optical fiber and extending it to the Gram Panchayats and Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL), is a special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), PSU set up under companies act by Govt of India under Rule 1956 has been registered on Feb 25, 2012 for management and Operation of NOFN.  More info at: http://www.bbnl.nic.in/index1.aspx?lsid=13&lev=1&lid=13&langid=1

Info) Indian Railways Optical Fiber Network Map by Railtel | RRB EXAM PORTAL - Railway Jobs, NTPC, ALP, ASM Exam Community

     Indian Railways Fiber Optic Network Map

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The pan India average of fiber to the tower ratio presently stands at 32% as against the target of 70% by 2024, envisaged by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), according to Taipa statistics.

Following the progression in the fourth-generation (4G) network deployments over the last couple of years, and the upcoming fifth-generation (5G) cellular technology, experts caution that low fiberization would eventually impact the service delivery, and a uniform policy across the country is much needed.

“In the last four years we have not had an increase in backhaul spectrum, hence, we are dealing with constrained factors and have to manage the quality of services based on existing capacity, for everybody’s good,” Kochhar said.

Coai said that the increased fiberization would meet the present requirement of bandwidth and future technologies such as 5G, and other emerging technologies,” Kochhar said and added that the early allocation of E and V bands to meet the backhaul requirements is also being considered by the government.

Dua further said that in order to address the increased data consumption in rural and urban areas and remote working following the Covid-19 outbreak, the role of fiberisation to propel digitalisation has increased multifold.

India, according to Crisil needs a tectonic shift in the fiberization landscape, and investment in fiberised backhaul infrastructure providing unlimited capacity and higher data speeds has to gain further traction if 5G has to become a reality.

Sandeep Aggarwal, co-chairman of the Telecom Equipment and Services Export Promotion Council (Tepc) believes that it is imperative to have a robust fibre infrastructure in the country to complement the next-generation or 4G and 5G technologies in line with the National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) unveiled in 2018.

Former telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh-headed Tepc represents Aksh Optifibre, Birla Cables, Paramount Wires & Cables, Himachal Futuristic Communications, Finolex Cables and Polycab Wires.

“With nearly 3 million kilometres of optic fibre cable (OFC) presently deployed, India will need to further enhance the footprint with an average of 2-kilometre of fibre per person,” Aggarwal said and added that more than 1 million kilometres of cable TV (CATV) fibre has been laid over the last one year in the country.

Private and public sector entities such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) and RailTel majorly contribute to the current fibre footprint in the country in addition to Centre’s ambitious BharatNet program that further aims to deploy nearly 8 lakh kilometres of fibre network separately.

There is a need to adopt new business models such as hiving off fibre assets via the Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvIT) model that will help in reducing capital expense requirements and allowing telecom operators to focus on topline growth opportunities, according to Aggarwal.

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio and Sunil Mittal-driven Bharti Airtel have already sold-off their fiber verticals to become financially-nimble pure-play telecom services companies.

Taipa’s Dua feels that the upcoming cities would be built on the basis of readily available optical fiber cables, and next-generation telecom infrastructure and technologies like 5G.

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References:

https://telecom.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/fiber-deployment-critical-for-quality-of-service-economic-benefits-telecom-infrastructure-companies/79208500

https://telecom.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/5g-is-very-much-dependent-on-fiberization-airtel-cto-randeep-sekhon/78444072

https://telecom.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/preparing-for-the-future-how-fiber-networks-will-support-growing-telecom-demand/78632667

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