Hans Raj Verma, Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu is amongst the first states to have covered all households with broadband services. It has accorded the highest priority to deployment of optical fibre cable (OFC) networks across the state, and is diligently undertaking the implementation of the BharatNet project. In order to achieve the BharatNet goals, the state government has ensured that timelines are adhered to and the project ownership is exercised at the topmost level across all departments.

BharatNet progress in Tamil Nadu

The Tamil Nadu Fibrenet Corporation (TANFINET) is executing the BharatNet project, under which 12,525 gram panchayats are planned to be provided with 1 Gbps connectivity through an optical fibre network. TANFINET is a special purpose vehicle created exclusively for implementing the project. The government has all the clearances in place, and is now in the process of signing contract agreements with the vendors.

BharatNet envisages the roll-out of a 49,000 km long OFC network across the state. Of this, 80 per cent is planned to be aerial, supported on the existing network of electricity lines, and the remaining 20 per cent is planned to be underground cable, laid through trenching. To achieve this goal, single-point clearances are being given by the state’s IT department.

BharatNet will help bring enhanced connectivity in the fields of education and health, promotion of self-help groups, creation of employment for the masses, etc. The state has launched a skilling programme for the youth, which is also expected to get a boost from the BharatNet connectivity infrastructure. The Tamil Nadu government has also launched several e-governance schemes that will ride on the BharatNet infrastructure.

The government recently formed a subsidiary of TANFINET, called Tamil Nadu Transmission Corporation Limited (TANTRANSCO), through which it is proposing to provide broadband connections to each of the state’s over 20 million households.

The state government had also initiated the Tamil Nadu State Wide Area Network project. Through this scheme, the government seeks to:

  • Provide a reliable and secure backbone network for the interconnection of all administrative establishments of the state government up to the block level;
  • Provide network infrastructure for accessing the various e-governance applications at the state data centre;
  • Facilitate information sharing among various government departments for prompt delivery of government services;
  • Provide voice connectivity to all offices connected on the network for faster communication, etc.

Further, the government has decided to utilise the existing and proposed fibre networks of TANTRANSCO and TANFINET to build the network for TamilNet. This project will be integrated with the BharatNet project to establish a unified digital infrastructure, which will connect state headquarters, district headquarters, blocks, gram panchayats and villages. The goal will be to create synergies and force a multiplier effect of data flow, content flow, access to market and access-to-information.

Implementation model

The total operations and maintenance period for system integrators (SIs) is seven years. The original equipment manufacturers are also responsible for maintaining the comprehensive warranty for that period, from the day of award. As far as the qualification criteria for the selection of SIs is concerned, these have been mandated by Bharat Broadband Network Limited, with certain criteria being part of the model request for proposal. These parameters have enabled competition and have allowed more players to participate. They have also helped the Tamil Nadu government in finding the right people and ensuring that the SI quality is good. Further, the Tamil Nadu government has ensured that its tenders are fully optimal and compliant with the Aatmanirbhar Bharat programme.

Business model

The government is planning to connect households via two models – the local cable operator (LCO) partnership model and the business partner model. Under the LCO model, cable operators would provide last-mile connectivity using their existing cable networks, while under the business partner model, internet will be provided free of cost and last-mile networks will be laid and provided by the business partners.

Challenges and the way forward

A key challenge is the independent approach taken by each department such as the forest department or the highways department. To address this, the Tamil Nadu government has established a single-point window to take care of all the issues faced by the implementation agencies.