|Topic:||Wiring India end-to-end|
|Author:||Shri K. K. Bajpeyee|
|Organisation:||RailTel Corporation of India Ltd|
Shri K. K. Bajpeyee is the Managing Director of RailTel Corporation of India Ltd. Previously, Mr Bajpeyee worked as Additional Member, in Charge of Signalling, at the Ministry of Railways’ Railway Board. Mr Bajpeyee has vast experience in general management and in the signalling and telecommunication field on Indian Railways. Mr Bajpeyee has worked as Divisional Railway Manager at Bangalore and Chief Signal and Telecommunication Engineer/Southern Railway, Chennai, in addition to other Senior Technical and Management positions. Mr Bajpeyee has also worked as a Telecommunication Consultant for the Mozambique National Railways. Mr Bajpeyee, BSc, BA (Hons), received specialised Management Training on British Rail and at the Manchester Business School (UK). Mr Bajpeyee has also travelled widely, studying railway signalling and telecommunication systems in the UK, France, Germany, the US and Australia.
Telecommunication is a key to economic and social development. Seventy per cent of the Indian population is rural, but the rural economy only generates 25 per cent of India’s GDP. RailTel’s network, connecting much of rural India, reduces costs for service providers, so they can profitably offer rural connectivity. Rural India also needs useful applications and content, particularly to support its rural micro-enterprises. Urban India, indeed the government itself, might outsource some of its IT based services to rural India to boost the local economy.
Background Telecommunication infrastructure and information is a key to rapid economic and social development. It is critical not only for the IT industry but also for the country’s entire economy. A substantial part of the GDP is generated, directly and indirectly, by this sector. The telecom infrastructure in India belonged entirely to the state till 1994, when the government announced the National Telecom Policy, NTP-94. The policy called for providing telephone service upon request, and providing reasonably priced world-class services and the universal availability of basic telecom services to all. The government invited private sector participation–initially for value added services such as paging, cellular mobiles, and licensed Internet service provision by private operators. This resulted in improved services mainly in metropolitan regions and in a few states where private operators were allowed to operate. The government was not satisfied with the initial results of privatisation, since revenue was far short of projections and objectives were not met. Hence a new National Telecom Policy, NTP-99, was issued that recognised the importance that access to telecommunications has for the achievement of the country’s social and economic goals. It strived to create a modern and efficient telecommunication infrastructure taking into account the convergence of IT, media and telecom and consumer electronics. The private sector was given a better framework for making available telecom services to the common man. It also envisaged India becoming an IT superpower. With the increased acceptance of computers in our daily life, it is natural that computers and communication will merge. Today, we expect communications that are available anywhere and at anytime. We also expect computing power to be constantly available. The industry is churning out new devices that make both of these available to us as a boxed product. The ICT industry in India is relatively mature; its growth during the past few years has been considerable. The market today is moving towards convergence and triple play services–voice, video and data–are intensely sought after. The emergence of the Internet and its widespread business and social impact has profoundly changed the market for private and public data services and the infrastructure that supports it has seen profound growth. The telecommunication market is vibrating with new technologies that promise to change the way we work and live. The technology for major changes for the common person is available today. We just need to bring those services–voice, video and data–to the common man at a price he can afford. It is here that a company like RailTel pitches in. Indian scenario About 70 per cent of the Indian population is rural. However, the rural economy contributes only about 25 per cent to the national GDP. It is essential to empower the rural economy so that it can contribute more to the GDP and its own economic development. There is compelling evidence that clearly demonstrates that so long as services meet local requirements, the rural community grabs the opportunity and benefits tremendously. In the past, many attempts have been made to provide telecom facilities in rural areas. These have not been very successful either due to the unwillingness of operators to go into these areas, or the problems associated in maintaining the infrastructure there. Operators need a workable business case to interest them in the rural market. There is a need to develop useful applications and content for rural India–in addition to tele-education and tele-health–that improve the rural economy by supporting rural micro-enterprises. Urban India might possibly outsource some of its IT based services to rural India. The government might also outsource such functions as land records, birth/death certificates and data-entry to agencies and small enterprises in rural India. Initiatives such as these could create wealth in rural areas. Some projects by voluntary organisations have resulted in economic and social development in rural areas. The government of India has set-up a special fund to encourage development of telecom in rural areas and around Rs 500 crores (US$100 million) have been allocated to service providers to provide telecom services in rural/urban areas. The tele density in rural areas is much below target and the gap between rural and urban is increasing. Government is considering a separate access licence for rural areas called ‘Niche Operated’ to provide telecommunication facilities in areas where tele density is less than one. In order to provide telecommunication facilities at a reasonable price, wireless technologies such as CorDECT, WiFi and WiMax are likely to be used. These technologies will succeed only if they can be deployed at a reasonable cost. Mobile telephones Mobile telephony–both GSM and CDMA–is being adopted in India and the growth has been tremendous. It has ushered in a telecommunication revolution that has had a deep impact on the lives of the common the people. Much of the country is now near to the dream of ‘information anywhere’. This technology is bringing new services such as local language SMS. Value added services such as news, entertainment, information, ticket booking and stock positions are available on this network. This sector has seen tremendous growth in the few years since its inception. About 1.5 million cellular subscribers are being added every month. The chart ‘Growth of Mobiles’ shows the growth trend. New technologies such as GPRS and EDGE are also being intoduced. GPRS enable the operators to charge only for the communication resources used and to optimise their use of the radio spectrum. This reduces the cost for the user. Cost reduction is a major reason for EDGE’s acceptance. EDGE also provides a common interface between GSM and CDMA, so mobile networks can converge–to the great benefit of both customers and operators. The growth (see Figure 1) has been made possible by reduced tariffs, the ‘drop in hand’ set prices, competition and favourable licence conditions. Internet and broadband services The emergence of the Internet, with its widespread business and social impact, has profoundly changed the market for private and public data services. Even the infrastructure that supports it has seen profound growth. Internet and broadband services will have far reaching effects. Broadband enables people to communicate with each other, to do business more effectively over longer distances, obtain education, access better health services, benefit from better governance and receive enhanced entertainment services. Widespread broadband accelerates GDP growth. In 2002, IT, driven primarily by broadband rollout, accounted for 50 per cent of South Korea’s GDP growth rate. An analysis by the Confederation of Indian Industry National Broadband Economy Committee shows that the total present value (2004) of the benefits to the Indian economy due to the growth of broadband will be US$90 billion for the years 2010-2020. There will also be an additional 11 per cent growth in labour productivity. This will launch new business lines and increase the efficiency of existing businesses, leading to direct employment of about 1.8 million and total employment of 62 million by 2020. To support these services, much skilled manpower will be required, so this creates employment opportunities. High-speed data network and Internet access will have major economic impacts on corporate efficiency and success. Whether doing business between a business and a consumer or between two businesses, the success of e-commerce transactions depends upon speed. Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) A strong infrastructure backbone is required to handle the information flow. As the services converge, customers will want simple connectivity that takes care of all his needs; converged services will rule the market of tomorrow. To carry converged services, the industry is moving towards a single IP/MPLS (Internet Protocol/Multi-Protocol Label Switching) infrastructure. In India, a broadband boom is expected in the next 6 to 18 months. Broadband penetration has increased the GDP of the countries where it has expanded, so the Government of India is keen to push the broadband boom. The data connectivity needs for companies, both small and large, is increasing. Service providers expect to offer new services such as Ethernet, Virtual Private LAN service (VPLS) and MPLS, that give businesses the large data bandwidth with stringent SLAs (Service Level Agreements) for the quality they need. Voice, video-on-demand, Internet gaming and broadband are a few of the services that are expected to lead future residential services and spur industry growth. VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) will be the preferred communication system in the corporate world. Rural communication Operators need a viable business case to get them interested in providing services in rural areas. RailTel, a 100 per cent subsidiary under India’s Ministry of Railways, provides such a business case. RailTel’s 25,000km of optical fibre network, to be extended to 42,000km, runs alongside the Indian Railways’ track and reaches almost every nook and cranny of the country. It reaches the metros, cities, big towns and villages.All the stations the fibber passes have a RailTel point of presence. Service providers can use the RailTel network to bring their services to the country’s remotest regions. Access to a state-of-art network, without the routine of network and infrastructure management, provides vendors with the opportunity to concentrate on quality services using the network infrastructure. It generates opportunities to innovate and make telecom utility services available to the common man. The Government can utilise this infrastructure to interact with its citizens. Increasing a region’s telecom density spurs its growth. RailTel’s OFC network is helping the growth of mobile communication by leasing its bandwidth and fibbers to telecom service providers. These, in turn, are providing mobile communications to those areas the RailTel network reaches. Since the telecom service providers outsource the connectivity to RailTel, they can concentrate on improving tele-density in their service areas. Internet and broadband services Internet services have proved to be very useful to the common man. To increase the penetration of these services, it is essential that the industries collaborate and join hands to make available these services to the general public, so that both can reap the benefits. It is in this quest that RailTel is setting up a countrywide OFC network using the latest technology. Services will ride on it and reach the masses who will be the ultimate beneficiaries. The benefit that it provides by allowing global connectivity and exchange of information in this age of information is unfathomable. Information at the tips of our fingers is a dream that the new and emerging technologies are promising. RailTel is also planning to set up cyber cafés at many of the stations that it covers. These cyber cafés will usher the Internet and broadband services into smaller cities and rural areas of India. New possibilities To meet tomorrow’s data needs, RailTel is deploying a countrywide IP/MPLS network. This infrastructure will enable RailTel to deploy new private data services at a relatively low cost that will ultimately be transferred to the customers. The IP/MPLS network ‘decouples’ the network from the access technology. It treats voice and video as just any other IP packet, but permits specific, stringent, handling requirements. RailTel plans to provide connectivity of various types and SLA requirements to carry tomorrow’s applications. This will let service providers offer their customers new and better services and give small and medium enterprises (SMEs) an affordable national network to disseminate services throughout India. The vision of an IP/Ethernet based communication network is widely shared among communications industry players. The change from the current network technology to IP is an exciting one. Converged services of the future will make many exciting, new possibilities available. This calls for collaboration between many different types of industries, but holds the promise of a comfortable future where all information is immediately available and where no-one is out of reach.