Dr B. Sundar, Special Secretary, Department of ITEC, Government of Andhra Pradesh

The Government of Andhra Pradesh is focused on extending internet connectivity to the last mile through a strong optical fibre cable (OFC) network. Phase I of the AP FiberGrid programme envisages setting up a state-wide, high speed optical fibre network infrastructure across the 13 districts in the state, mostly leveraging the assets of the electricity department.

At present, around 60 per cent of the state’s population is digitally included through channels such as the internet and mobile phones.

Growth drivers for OFC networks

The key growth drivers for OFC deployment include the emergence of cloud technology and its use in several government initiatives, and the increasing penetration of smartphones, leading to high data usage.

The state is, planning to set up digital libraries in the village and ward secretariats in the next three years, where artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and machine learning (ML) ecosystems such as Kaggle, GitHub and other ML repositories from both open source and proprietary sources will be installed. This too would require a strong OFC infrastructure.

The Government of Andhra Pradesh is also looking at the evolution of 5G and the fiberisation of tower sites, which will bolster fibre demand. The fiberisation of tower sites currently stands at 37-40 per cent. Besides, smart cities are expected to generate significant opportunities for the OFC industry. The state’s IT policy, which will shortly be made public, is set to boost concept cities. Instead of developing smart cities in clusters, the state will focus on two or three huge 3,000 acre concept cities, which will only have one concept each, according to which the entire ecosystem, including the social infrastructure, will be built.

Interface between OFC and the AP FiberGrid

Through the AP FiberGrid, the state has been providing triple-play services such as internet protocol television, internet and telephony. So far, the service has been provided to over 970,000 households at an affordable rate of Rs 204 per month. Further, Andhra Pradesh State FiberNet Limited (APSFL) has provided connectivity to remote and Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) areas in different terrains of the state. At present, the state has 24,000 km of OFC laid at over 2,600 PoPs, covering 5,400 villages, against the target of 16,000 villages. Over 15,000 enterprises have been connected, including zila parishads and municipal schools, gram panchayat (GP) offices, village ward secretariats, post offices, social welfare schools and government colleges. Anganwadi kendras and other government offices in remote areas and uncovered villages in ITDA areas have also been connected. Around 14,000 surveillance cameras have been integrated into APSFL’s network, helping police departments in monitoring crime. Around 24,000 km of a 24-core, all-dielectric self-supporting OFC will be laid over the electrical poles, with its back-end electronic systems being set up at PoPs at around 2,449 identified substations to ensure good maintenance. Further, the state has set up a state-wide control and command centre at Visakhapatnam as a network operations centre.

E-government applications and IT network

APSWAN

The Andhra Pradesh State Wide Area Network (APSWAN) is a high speed, high capacity, reliable backbone network for all of the state’s e-governance applications. It is integrated with the Andhra Pradesh Secretariat Campus Area Network, Andhra Pradesh State Data Centre and the National Knowledge Network, and is facilitating secure network services for critical and important departments. So far, under the vertical component of APSWAN, one state headquarter (SHQ) has been connected, providing a bandwidth of 310 Mbps. Meanwhile, 13 district headquarters (DHQs) and 654 mandal headquarters (MHQs) have also been connected. Under the horizontal segment of APSWAN, around 2,164 offices across the state have been connected across SHQs, DHQs and MHQs.

APSWAN has redundant point-to-point links connected in active-to-active manner, only up to DHQs. The links are configured for specific services, and whenever the primary link in any DHQ is down, respective routes are automatically connected to a secondary link. As of now there is no link redundancy available for MHQs, which causes civil service outage. In order to avoid such challenges and increase the reliability, efficiency and availability of APSWAN, the state government is planning to upgrade the existing APSWAN to AP software-defined WAN (APSDWAN). In addition, network-as-a-service is being envisaged for all departments.

Other key applications

Applications such as videoconferencing, e-office, Mee-Seva and Aadhaar services can be availed of through APSWAN. Besides, virtual classrooms have been set up in 4,000 government schools.

Conclusion

Andhra Pradesh hopes to leverage the OFC network for financial inclusion by refining the above e-government applications. Such inclusion could help the country improve its ranking on the United Nations’ E-Government Development Index 2020, from its 100th position at present.