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India eyes nationwide fiber network

Country's Telecom Commission proposes to extend fiber optic network to reach rural village areas in hope of boosting economy and uptake of e-government services, says minister.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

India has plans to extend its fiber optic network to reach the village level to connect and push e-services to rural areas, according to a government official.

In a Friday statement, Shri Kapil Sibal, India's minister of communication and information technology said the Telecom Commission has proposed to create the National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) which will extend the country's existing fiber optic network from the district level to the village level, or gram panchayat level.

The initial part of the project which is estimated to cost 200 billion Indian rupee (US$4.5 billion) will be funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), said Sibal. He added that private sector will likely contribute similar investment to complement the infrastructure and to provide services to users.

Sibal hoped that the extension of connection will boost economic benefits such as provide additional employment, e-education, e-health, e-agriculture and other e-services as well as reduce migration of rural population to urban areas.

Aside from economic benefits, Sibal noted that the nationwide fiber optic network will help drive government initiatives such as e-health, e-banking, e-education and so on.

"The proposed NOFN will enable effective and faster implementation of various mission mode e-governance projects amounting to approx 500 billion Indian rupee (US$11.25 billion) initiated by Department of Information Technology as well as delivery of a whole range of electronic services in the above areas by the private sector to citizen in rural areas," said Sibel.

Aside from supporting fixed-line connection, the Indian government announced in April its pledge to support mobile broadband. The country aims to reach 160 million broadband connections by 2014.

According to an ABI Research report last year, India is expected to drive the region's mobile Internet traffic by 2015.

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