Chennai: The archipelago of Andaman and Nicobar(A&N) islands off India’s east coast is set to get more connectivity, but this time its via the undersea route, as the project to install 2250km of Optic fibre cable (OFC) from Chennai to Port Blair has been inaugurated. The cable laying which was flagged off by Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Communications, Electronics & IT, Law and Justice, and Admiral D.K. Joshi, Lt Governor of the Andaman and Nicobar islands is aimed at being completed by June this year.
Currently, the A&N are connected to the Indian mainland via a satellite link with limited bandwidth capacity and high amounts of latency (delay). As opposed to the present satellite link capacity which is merely 3.2Gbps, the OFC would be able to provide a bandwidth of 400Gbps(over 100 times the existing capacity) at its initial stage of commissioning. The project would connect Port Blair (the A&N island’s capital) to seven other islands such as Little Andaman, Car Nicobar, Kamorta, Great Nicobar, Havelock, Long Island and Rangat. The total 2250km link distance consists of 1450 kms for Chennai-Port Blair and 800kms for the other seven segments.
Being implemented at a total cost of Rs.1224Cr, the work will be done by NEC Technologies, Japan, under the supervision of BSNL which has been appointed the Project Execution Agency. This project which has a design life of 25 years is meant to provide a fillip to the socio-economic development, tourism in A&N islands. The bandwidth created under this project will be made available to all telecom service providers to extend their services to the islands. The OFC link will also meet the strategic communication requirements of the country’s defense forces.
The pre-laying activities which were on since November 2019 have been completed between Chennai and A&N by the ship ‘Straider’, while the ship ’CS Responder’ will commence the undersea cable laying work from Friday.
Speaking at the inauguration, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “The tip of this sophisticated OFC cable is barely the size of a needle and it has layers of thick protective coating around it, so they can’t even be damaged by sharks. It is for the first time that such a gigantic exercise is being taken up in India. We have also approved laying of cables from Kochi to Lakshadweep-Kavaratti on the Western side.”
The Minister hailed India’s state-telecom service provider BSNL as a strategic asset for the country and recalled the 2015 Chennai floods when BSNL network alone was operational, how stranded Indians during the Nepal earthquake were able to use BSNL for communication. He emphasized that such submarine cables would bridge the digital divide between the mainland and islands, while also ensuring low-cost development and transformation to the local economy.
“The current option of connectivity via satellite is expensive and fails to provide robust connectivity, but the OFC will be able to boost economic activity by providing equitable, affordable internet access for all. This will also benefit the niche, non-polluting industries that we plan to develop on the A&N islands” said Admiral DK Joshi the Lt Governor of the A&N islands.