The network is down, the fiber optic cable snaps in again
Take the risky air route or descend underground to get shaved by road cutters. The choice is difficult for carriers offering high-speed, pan-city broadband over fiber optic cables (OFC). As the city prepares for 5G trials, isn’t it time it at least got its OFC policy?
The political vacuum is real. Amid the chaotic mess of unearthed roads and dangling wires, thousands of Bengalurians stuck to online courses and work-at-home (WFH) mandates face serious connectivity issues. For telecoms players and the Bruhath Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), now is the time to quickly sort out their issues.
In summary, the problem is this: To increase broadband connectivity, carriers must maintain and expand their OFC network. But with several utility companies digging roads to lay electricity, water and gas pipes, OFC cables are often pushed back on the priority list.
Risky air route
So they take the air route, and run into trouble. Pulled by the courts, the Palike goes into action mode, cutting cables and connecting the internet to thousands of homes. Is there a way out of this cycle that doesn’t benefit anyone?
Representing telecommunications companies, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has been in talks with the BBMP for years. In the last round, which took place in March of this year, progress was made on the air front.
“During the meeting with the chief commissioner of the BBMP, we decided to embellish the overhead cables by straightening those which sag. But we have no control over many unknown players ”, informs an official of the Association. Work had started on this in the Mahadevapura area of Palike before the second pandemic wave struck.
No grip policy
The telecom players, he said, had asked the Palike to let them lay the cables underground. “But there is no right of way (right of way) policy for OFCs. As an alternative, we want to take the air route in a structured way. But there is also no policy on this.
Freshly paved roads are not allowed to be excavated for one year. But this is apparently only a rule on paper. Residents across town complained about road cuts for water and sewer lines just weeks after a road was tarred. Poor inter-agency coordination is blamed by all for the mess.
A labyrinth of utility lines crisscrosses the space under the city’s roads, large and small. Besides BBMP, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Limited (Bescom), Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL), Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and a multitude of private telecommunications players have their pipelines and cables down.
Sorting it requires precise, scientific basement mapping, based on geo-positioning and geoinformatics. Since the high-tech city only has a pedestrian system to deal with clutter, an agency that digs to lay a line or fix a broken line inevitably collides with another line operated by another agency.
In addition, the endless excavation of roads for multiple infrastructure works, including the Namma metro and flyover projects, ensures that the underground is always on the move. “If we get a week or two notice, we can move the cables above ground.” But taking the air route as a temporary measure is not easy. “What do we carry the cables on? Bescom does not allow us to use their posts.
We have to install our own poles, which the Palike will not allow. There must be an appropriate system in place. The Chief Secretary should sit down with all the stakeholders and close this matter. “
The political vacuum, poor interagency coordination and lack of clarity have slowed the growth of broadband connectivity in the city. Preferring anonymity, a telecommunications industry insider says Jio Fibernet’s expansion is affected because of these issues.
“No broadband operator can connect the whole city and provide a wide area network. The work has stalled for years, ”he says.
Former broadband players are now forced to rely on their existing underground copper cable network. This, however, seriously affects the speed promised.
“Although carriers promise speeds of up to 40 megabytes per second (Mbps), they rarely exceed 20 Mbps. OFCs offer speeds of over 100-200 Mpbs.