National Fibre Optic Network
- Information and communication technology (ICT) is a powerful facilitator for meeting the Millennium Development Goals by facilitating a roll-out of Internet access as an enabler of development
- But some services are dependent upon the availability of other complementary services and provisioning of basic services using ICT is also dependent on the availability of other complementary inputs.
National Optical Fibre Network?
- This is part of the Digital India initiative of the Government of India. NOFN is envisaged as a non- discriminatory Telecom infrastructure which will bridge the gap in rural access.
- NOFN, which is being funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), Department of Telecom, Ministry of Communications & IT, Govt. of India, is envisaged to provide non- discriminatory access to bridge the digital divide across rural India
Universal Service Obligation in the Age of Broadband—
Establishes two criteria that could be used to support the build-out of networks in advance of the ability of target populations to use them
Time to build–
- If ICT infrastructure takes a long time to deploy- then the project needs to be initiated in anticipation of future absorptive capability
- Prove to be a “durable” solution- Once deployed, it would take care of rural connectivity needs for many years to come
- The capabilities of the technologies used for providing access develop in a discontinuous, step-wise manner with each step representing discontinuous jumps in access speed per dollar of investment.
- Therefore, rural areas must switch from lower to higher technologies due to the constraint of download speeds (Earlier- Lower the total capital costs of connectivity)
And, thus the expenses
- Fundamental driving force for government intervention-Stems from the role of connectivity as an enabler of development. Hence, the government’s financial obligation needs to be limited to the level of connectivity required to enable the provision of the requisite amount of developmental goods
- The degree of production and demand externalities that accrue after threshold penetration levels are reached; as well as the liabilities in question may also not justify the expenses
- Therefore, the cost should be shared between the public and private sectorwith the public sector paying for the basic level of connectivity required to provide development inputs and to internalize the positive impact arising from demand and supply externalities (Liability of the government needs to be limited)
- But the lack of a purely commercial venture may lack the conviction to deploy and bear the initial high investment and thus, the government should intervene and payfor the upfront costs of building the network and collect a revenue share for a specified number of years
- Need to be provided and a wireless network closely aligned with complementary inputs and the absorptive capacity of the target population should be rolled out to provide basic necessities immediately and prepare the population for the coming of the fibre optic network
- The operating competence of the private sector should be leveraged by tendering projects for building and maintenance through a reverse auction process.
A rural set-up & NOFN
Build-Own-Operate-Transfer model for building the national optical fibre network is not recommended on account of—
Operating challenges of rural networks-
- Being designed as a top-down model with no specific designing implemented for it to be successful on the ground
- Citing the difference between laying and installing optical fibre cable being just one part of the task; breathing life into the cables by having free flow of data is another matter altogether
- Serious lack of planning and strategy to make sure that these are fully functional and available to the people, organisations and government offices
- Panchayat as a base-
- Has not been able to spread connectivity beyond the Panchayat building in many villages when there is a need for each panchayat point of broadband to be fired up, functional, used and distributed
- Only 67% of the panchayats were connected to the fibre-optic backbone in the pilot phase of the NOFN project
- Connected Villages-Average broadband speed was found to be 50Mbps, half of what the government has promised
- Low ability to pay
- Uncertainty regarding the availability of complementary inputs
Infrastructural Challenges of National Optical Fibre Network
- Inadequate Spectrum
- High Price of Spectrum
- Non availability of contagious spectrum
- Non allocation of back haul spectrum
- Government auctioning spectrum in small chunks