Kalpesh B. Patel, general manager, commercial operations, GFGNL

The government of Gujarat has taken significant measures to expand the optical fibre cable (OFC) coverage in the state. Gujarat Fibre Grid Network Limited (GFGNL), an SPV built to implement BharatNet Phase II in Gujarat, is playing a pivotal role in these endeavours. At tele.net’s recent conference on “OFC Networks in India”, Kalpesh B. Patel, general manager, commercial operations, GFGNL, spoke about the status of the OFC network in Gujarat and progress under Phase II of the BharatNet project…

Status of the OFC network

A total of 153,511 km of OFC has been deployed across Gujarat by telecom service providers (TSPs), internet service providers (ISPs), GFGNL and Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) under the Bha­rat­Net project. Of this, BBNL and GFGNL have together deployed 52,428 km of OFC. Further, Reliance Jio, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), Voda­fo­ne Idea Limited (Vi), You Broadband, Air­tel (including all group companies), Tata Teleservices Limited and Powergrid have deployed 33,579 km, 30,900 km, 12,761 km, 9,567 km, 8,072 km, 3,716 km and 2,488 km respectively.

Update on the BharatNet project

Overall, GFGNL has completed 99.9 per cent of the BharatNet project in Gujarat, which is currently at the operation and maintenance stage. Out of the total number of 7,993 planned gram panchayats (GPs) to be connected, GFGNL has lit 7,987 GPs in the state by laying over 35,200 km of OFC. Under Package A, 4,223 GPs out of the planned 4,229 GPs have been lit. Further, all 3,764 GPs planned have been lit under Package B. There are 12 dedicated core OFC connections at each GP.

GFGNL adopted the engineering, procurement, and construction approach for project implementation. This helped in analysing the cost per GP and allowed project implementing agencies to work accordingly. The company also built its own telecom shelters, withdrawing any dependency on the infrastructure provided by BSNL, thereby increasing uptime. Cu­rrently, it has over 400 own telecom shelters, and it plans to use them as co-location sites.

For the deployed network, GFGNL has signed telecom-grade service le­v­el agreements. Now, GFGNL­ has also started offering internet facilities to the residents of Gu­jarat with the help of various ISPs.

Tower fiberisation 

In terms of towers connected through OFC, around 35 per cent of tower sites in the state have been fiberised. GFGNL has also deployed a telecom-grade network operation centre (NOC), which operates 24*7 for network surveillance. Ten tower sites, four for Vi and six for BSNL, have been fiberised using GFGNL OFC, and many more are planned in the near future.

Network utilisation

The company is utilising its existing network by leasing dark fibre to other operators. It is currently utilising around 11,000 km for dark fibre leasing. This is being offered for data centre connectivity and community antenna television. The company is also catering to ISPs.

Meanwhile, the overall network up­time of GPs in Gujarat has increased. They are witnessing 97 per cent uptime at present, which is higher than that in any other state in India. This ac­hievement is attributed to the deployment of telecom grid resources on the ground in order to maintain the GP uptime, leased customer dark fibre and the horizontal connections given to government offices.

Future plans

In terms of future plans, operators such as Vi, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel are al­ready discussing their 5G roll-out strategies with GFGNL as they plan to utilise the OFC network laid out under the BharatNet Phase II project in Gujarat. GFGNL fibre will also be used by BSNL for its 4G saturation project. Moreover, GFGNL is planning to lease around 25,000 km of OFC commercially by 2024. The Gujarat government is also working towards connecting 30,000 government institutes with functional fibre-to-the-home connections, which will act as an extension of the GPs.