Business & Marketing

Kerala fibre optic network: Phase 1 of project comes on stream

The second phase of the project would see the state leveraging the KFON infrastructure to provide free Internet connectivity to economically backward families and subsidised connectivity to others.

With the Kerala government inaugurating last Monday the first phase of the ambitious Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON) project, over 8,000 government offices and educational institutions in the state will get to enjoy the benefits of high-speed connectivity. KFON envisages laying a complementary optical fibre network across the state and augmenting the broadband infrastructure, bringing into the fold a total of 30,000 entities.

It is a joint venture between the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Ltd (KSITIL), Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) and the state, in which the two companies hold 49% each and the state the remaining 2%. A consortium led by Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) is executing the project and will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the 35,000-km-long network for the next seven years.

In the first phase, the dedicated optical fibre network will provide high-speed, reliable and scalable connectivity with non-discriminatory access to all service providers. All government institutions, including schools and hospitals, are being linked to the State Data Centre (SDC), to ensure secure and fast e-governance.

The second phase of the project would see the state leveraging the KFON infrastructure to provide free Internet connectivity to economically backward families and subsidised connectivity to others.

“Kerala is the only State in India that has declared ‘the right to Internet’ as a basic right of its citizens. Rights become meaningful only when they can be exercised. The Kerala Fibre Optic Network project is our attempt to ensure that all Keralites can enjoy Internet-based services as a right. It is our effort to bridge the digital divide. With KFON becoming a reality, all homes and offices in the state will get connected to the information highway. Around 20 lakh people in Kerala are set to receive free high- speed Internet connectivity,” said Pinarayi Vijayan, chief minister of Kerala.

The main backbone fibre of the network is being drawn through the high-tension transmission towers of KSEB, while the end-user is connected through electricity transmission poles. Funded by the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB), the project is estimated to cost Rs 1,028.20 crore, which includes capital expenditure, administrative overheads and annual operational expenditure of Rs 104.4 crore. The loan would be repaid to KIIFB over a period of 11 years, excluding a three-year moratorium period. Under the business plan drawn up, the fees that service providers pay for riding the KFON network would be used to offset the free Internet connection bills that they generate.

Says Moses Rajkumar, deputy chief engineer, KSEB, “KFON is a neutral network and any service provider can ride it and bridge the connectivity gap without being affected by the issues of Right of Way (RoW ), capital investment and reach markets which were previously unserviceable due to infrastructure limitations,” adding that the network would also help inter-connect 4G and 5G towers, ensuring better telecom connectivity.

The fibre infrastructure of telcos is quite limited in the state given the need for high investments and stringent RoW conditions. Moreover, a majority of the existing telecom towers are connected via wireless which limits the bandwidth that can be provided. The project will allow telecom players to set up towers on government premises and utilise the KFON network available on such premises to fiberise them.

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