The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is readying to consult industry stakeholders on enhancing the country’s fibre footprint on the backdrop of Narendra Modi government’s ambitious fifth generation or 5G technology push.
“We are preparing a consultation paper on how to enhance fiberisation to help implementation of 5G in the country,” Trai secretary Sunil K Gupta told ETT, adding that the idea was to gauge the existing challenges.
India’s fibre penetration, according to industry estimates is extremely low, and despite 5G technology around the corner, only 25% of the 5 lakh telecom towers in India are fiberised— an essential backhaul requirement for high-speed data network deployments.
The government, as a part of the recently-unveiled national policy, also aims to establish the National Fibre Authority (NFA) but, however, the department of telecom (DoT) is yet to take further steps.
Gupta added that the regulator would be taking an initial step that includes setting up an agenda for the broader consultation, and that would include current footprint status, existing bottlenecks, and ways and means to increase fiber penetration.
The government aims to increase fibre footprint to fivefold by 2022, from the current 1.5 million route kilometres.
Trai is expected to come out with a new paper on fiberisation in the next quarter.
With immense data demand and 5G which is expected to arrive by 2020, the need for fiberisation in India has increased manifold. Telecom service providers are now also turning to local cable operators.
Billionaire Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio that has 3.25 lakh route kilometres of optic fibre cable, has recently acquired controlling stakes in multi-system operators— HathwayNSE 0.00 % Cables and Den Network.
Rivals such as Bharti AirtelNSE -1.07 % has 2.50 lakh route kilometres of fibre network and Vodafone Idea has only 1.60 lakh kilometres spread across the country.
State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) that has the largest pan-India fibre base of nearly 8 lakh route kilometers, is also planning to lease out lucrative infrastructure.
As telecom carriers strengthen their fibre capability, topography remains a hurdle.
“To produce more data faster, a strong backbone is needed that can be built on fiber which is really important. We believe India should be more fiberised to be a digital leader tomorrow,” Hans Hess, chairman of the Board of Directors, Reichle & De-Massari AG said.
Earlier, the optic fibre companies have demanded the government to come out with incentives to encourage fibre deployments, a critical telecom infrastructure, ahead of much-anticipated fifth generation or 5G commercial rollout in the country.