National Optical Fibre Network

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The National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) is a project to provide broadband connectivity to over two lakh (200,000) Gram panchayats of India at a cost of Rs.20,000 crore ($4 billion). The project provides internet access using existing optical fiber and extending it to the Gram panchayats. The project was intended to enable the government of India to provide e-services and e-applications nationally. A special purpose vehicle Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) was created as a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Companies Act of 1956 for the execution of the project. The project will be funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) and was estimated to be completed in 2 years.[1]

Implementation[edit]

The Indian government approved a cabinet note on the scheme to create the National Optical Fiber Network dated 25 October 2011. The implementation framework, budget, technology architecture and other issues related to NOFN were worked out by a high level committee constituted by the Department of Telecom (DoT) under the chairmanship of an adviser to the Prime Minister and Chairman UIDAI (constituted on 26 April 2011). The Special-Purpose Vehicle Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) was incorporated to execute the project, implemented by three prominent telecom PSUs. To grant right of way, a draft tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) among the government of India, the SPV and the State governments of India was sent to the state governments and Union Territories for their concurrence.[2]

The Office of Adviser announced they would work on applications for rural broadband in collaboration with Ministries of Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, HRD, Health and the Prime Minister’s National Council on Skill Development so that even as hardware connectivity is under progress, applications also get addressed.[2] Building public information infrastructure requires coordination between the geographical information system plan, UIDAI, National Informatics Centre and others to build platforms, applications and portals which include developing India’s version of Data.gov under the aegis of the Department of Information Technology.

The National Informatics Centre ( NIC) was assigned a project by DOT/USOF for geographic information system (GIS) mapping of the existing OFC network of the various telecom operators such BSNL, Rail Tel, Power Grid, etc. The mapping of the existing OFC will enable to calculate the incremental length of the cable required for connecting all the 2.5 lakh panchayats with OFC. The State Government will have the role of providing free Right of Way (RoW) for laying OFC. The project envisaged signing a tripartite MoU for free Right of Way (RoW) among the Union Government, State Government and Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL).[3]

16 States and Union Territories signed the MoUs on 26 October 2012. These states and Union Territories were Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Manipur, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and 3 Union Territories viz. Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu and Puducherry. Under the MoUs, 140727 gram panchayaths will be facilitated with Optical Fibre Network in these States and Union Territories. Tripartite MoU were signed with other ten states and Union Territories on 12 April 2013. These states and Union Territories were Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Odisha, Punjab and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. In these states and Union Territories, overall 85731 gram panchayaths will get covered by Optical Fibre Network.[4]

Trial rollout[edit]

Pilots are being tried in Ajmer in Rajasthan, Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, Panisagar in Tripura, Thane & jalka shahpur to test the broadband infrastructure and adoption after being approved by MCIT. Universal Service Obligation Fund (DOT), BBNL, BSNL, Rail Tel, Power Grid and Telecom Players, USPs and content providers, along with State Governments, are working on the Pilot Trials.[5]

National rollout[edit]

All the Service Providers like Telecom Service Providers (TSPs), ISPs, Cable TV operators etc. will be given non-discriminatory access to the National Optic Fibre Network and can launch various services in rural areas. Various categories of applications like e-health, e-education and e-governance etc. can also be provided by these operators. The project is proposed to be completed in two years and the nationwide rollout is expected as early as 2014.[6]

Technology[edit]

National Optic Fibre Network uses Gigabit passive optical network (GPON) technology indigenously developed by Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT).[7][8]

A passive optical network (PON) brings fiber cabling and signals to the home using a point-to-multipoint scheme that enables a single optical fiber to serve multiple premises. Encryption maintains data security in this shared environment. The architecture uses passive (unpowered) optical splitters, reducing the cost of equipment compared to point-to-point architectures.[9]

The GPON standard differs from other passive optical network standards in that it achieves higher bandwidth and higher efficiency using larger, variable-length packets. GPON offers efficient packaging of user traffic, with frame segmentation allowing higher quality of service (QoS) for delay-sensitive voice and video communications traffic. The main components of GPON technology are OLT, ONT/ONU, Splitters, OF cables etc. ITU standard G-984 series as well as TEC spec GR no.PON-01/02 Apr 2008[10] define GPON technology. C-DOT has also inked technology transfer pacts with six Indian vendors which include ITIBSE 3.26 per cent, Tejas Networks, VMC, Sai Systems, United Telecoms and SM Creative to manufacture the gear on winning the contracts.[9]

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