Santulan Chaubey, joint director (IT), Government of NCT of Delhi

Optical fibre cable (OFC) networks play an instrumental role in providing last-mile connectivity and enab­ling several technology-based applications. With the emergence of 5G, a number of state governments are accelerating OFC network deployment in their regio­ns. The government of Delhi has been actively leveraging fibre to enable a number of 5G applications and expanding in­ter­net coverage to all the unconnected ar­e­as of the state. At a recent conference on “OFC Networks in India”, Santu­lan Chaubey, joint director (IT), Gov­ernment of Delhi, spoke about key initiatives taken by the government in the OFC space and its future plans for infrastructure expansion. Edited excerpts…

Delhi’s initiatives

We work on three major things. The first and foremost is efficient communication among departments, which ensures effective governance and management. The se­cond is infrastructure development. Delhi has robust fiberisation across the state. We have state-specific applications which rely on the communication infrastructure. The entire state government network has been connected through fibre optics. Our data centres, hubs and internal computers are all connected through fiberisation. We have both passive and active fibre connections. Additionally, we are running 469 online services in Delhi.

Further, the government of Delhi has its own geospatial infrastructure, which can provide high accuracy maps of Delhi. We have over 400 layers of data, including fibre networks. The entire infrastructure can be visualised on these layers. However, it has been noticed that telecom service providers (TSPs) tend to keep their fibre networks solely for their own use. Sharing of information on fiberisation by all TSPs on a common platform will open up an opportunity for better network planning in Delhi. The government has been requesting TSPs to share their fibre infrastructure. To coordinate with various stakeholders in providing broadband services, a high level committee has been set up under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary, Delhi. This committee also monitors the permissions to access towers, with the help of the Department of Tele­communications (DoT). Further, it continuously monitors the implementation of OFC, mobile stations of telecommunication agencies, etc.

RoW and cost concerns

Communication is an essential service to­day. If we are not able to provide communication to the last mile, then the very purpose of serving the people is defeated. Ho­w­ever, there are still some parts in Delhi lacking basic communication services. This is because private players do not find providing services profitable there is also a cost concern among TSPs and equipment vendors, especially related to right of way (RoW). Extending communication infrastructure to the last mile is a major concern for the government and fiberisation is critical in this context. We will soon release our RoW policy and expedite OFC roll-out in the state. However, cost dynamics are different in Delhi as the cost of land and other resources is relatively higher here as compared to other states. Nevertheless, the level of quality of service and speed provided to users is much better in the state.

Enabling 5G applications

When it comes to 5G and fiberisation in states, the most important thing is applications riding on 5G. The Government of Delhi is working on developing various ap­plications of 5G technology. These use cases are mainly where low latency is critical, such as ambulances and internet of things (IoT) projects. Fibre is very important to enable these applications. We have recently de­ployed 5G in the Delhi Secretariat. How­ever, we are yet to achieve and experience widespread adoption of these use cases.

The state government has identified and mapped over 200,000 street furniture using its own equipment/mobile application. The street furniture includes bus stations, Delhi police CCTV poles, utility poles and footbridges where 5G routers can be connected. This street furniture is now ready for use to expand 5G networks. The data mapped will be shared with the stakeholders once Delhi’s RoW policy is released. Thus, technically we are ready. We have our in-house geographic information system (GIS) centre to map all communication infrastructure.

Future plans

We are in discussions with DoT and other government bodies to expand the overall communication infrastructure in the capital.

Going forward, other key priorities for the state’s IT department will be to develop applications and software, and create infrastructure for sustainable development. We are also looking to develop a strong IoT solution that runs on an efficient communication network to obtain and process state-wide data without any delays.