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India's Leading Source for Broadcasting & Broadband Information - CableQuest Magazine
HomeArticlesConvergenceProviding Broadband in Rural India
Tuesday, 08 April 2014 13:26

Providing Broadband in Rural India

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A meeting of Bharat Broadband Network Ltd was held on 24.03.2014 at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, in connection with formal consultation process with the service providers to leverage the facilities created by NOFN for providing broadband services in rural India. Government of India has approved the setting up of National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) to provide connectivity to all the 2,50,000 Gram Panchayats (GPs) in the country. This would ensure at least 100 Mbps connectivity to each Gram Panchayat.This is to be achieved utilizing the existing optical fibre and extending it to Gram Panchayats. 

Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL), is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), set up by Government of India for Establishment, Management and Operation of NOFN. As a part of NOFN, three pilot sites have been operational spread over three states. Efforts are being made to rope in service providers to utilize the bandwidth created in those pilot sites. The Meeting was chaired by CMD, BBNL, Sh. N. Ravi Shankar. 

At present OFC (Optical Fibre Cable) connectivity is available in all State Capitals, Districts, HQs and upto the Block Level. There is a plan to connect all the 2,50,000 Gram panchayats in the country. This will be done by utilizing existing fibres of PSUs (BSNL, Railtel and Power Grid) and laying incremental fibre to connect to Gram Panchayats wherever necessary. Dark fibre network thus created will be lit by appropriate technology  creating sufficient bandwidth at the Gram Panchayats. This will be called the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN). Thus connectivity gap between Gram Panchayats and Blocks will be filled.

Non-discriminatory access to the NOFN will be provided to all the Service Providers. These service providers like Telecom Service Providers(TSPs), ISPs, Cable TV operators and Content providers can launch various services in rural areas. Various categories of applications like e-health, e-education and e-governance etc. can be provided by these operators. The NOFN project is estimated to cost about Rs. 20,000 Cr. It is proposed to be completed in 2 years’ time. The project will be funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).

The company has been granted National Long Distance Operating (NLDO) license by DOT to w.e.f. 01.04.2013.


In NOFN the technology called GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network Technology) will be utilised. A passive optical network (PON) is a network architecture that brings fiber cabling and signals to the home using a point-to-multipoint scheme that enables a single optical fiber to serve multiple premises. Encryption maintains data security in this shared environment. The architecture uses passive (unpowered) optical splitters, reducing the cost of equipment compared to point-to-point architectures.

 The GPON (gigabit passive optical network) standard differs from other PON standards in that it achieves higher bandwidth and higher efficiency using larger, variable-length packets. GPON offers efficient packaging of user traffic, with frame segmentation allowing higher quality of service (QoS) for delay-sensitive voice and video communications traffic. The main components of GPON technology are OLT, ONT/ONU, Splitters, OF cables etc. ITU standard G-984 series as well as TEC spec GR no.PON-01/02 Apr 2008 define GPON technology

Pilot Projects

BBNL has embarked upon pilot projects in three blocks covering 58 Gram Panchayats in three different states. These blocks are Arian in Ajmer district (Rajasthan), Parvada in Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and Panisagar in North Tripura district (Tripura).

The objectives of conducting a pilot project are as follows:

•The learning on technology choice and network architecture.

•Experiences gained in addressing ground realities in rural domain.

•NOFN NOC (Network Operation Center) related issues being developed by C-DoT- its integration and its testing at pilot locations.

•Experience gained by participation of TSPs, ISPs and application providers in utilizing bandwidth created by NOFN with respect to deliverables committed by BBNL.

•Synergisation by DIT/DoT to work together for pilots and plan the template for pilot testing of G2C services.

•Integration of NOFN pilots with existing networks from Blocks upwards. Also address the interfacing of NOFN with access operators at GPs.

•Synthesis of learning from the pilots and cross learning amongst 3- CPSUs in execution strategy.

The target date for completing Pilot Projects was 15/10/2012, and the same has been achieved with OFC laid out to all the Gram Panchayats in the Pilot Blocks and Electronic Equipment (OLT and ONT) having been tested for offering services.

Tariff for Bandwidth under NOFN Pilot Projects 

 The tariff for 100 mbps bandwidth on the pilot project shall be Rs.66667/- per 100 mbps per gram panchayat per annum (exclusive of taxes) for the purpose of providing Government (Central & State) CUG connectivity for the pilot projects. The above tariff is provisional and applicable for the period of one year from 1.4.2013 to 31.3.2014 for the pilot projects only. The bandwidth will be free for the period up to 31.3.2013. 


Nil charges: where the planned bandwidth of 100 mbps per GP is taken at OLT covering at least 80% of the ONT’s in that block. 

Rs.10000/- per port of 100 mbps port at OLT per annum Rs.20000/- per port at OLT for 1 Gbps port at OLT per annum 

ONT port charges: NIL 


BBNL Tariff for 2 Mbps per GP: Rs.4000/- pa. 

For total bandwidth more than 2 Mbps & up to 10 Mbps per GP for each stream of 2 Mbps including first stream: Rs.3600/- pa 

For 10 Mbps per GP: Rs.16000/- pa 


(A)100 mbps Rs.66667/- per annum 

(B)Bandwidth at OLT as 10 mbps per GP and above but below 100 mbps per GP 

i. 10 mbps: Rs.7500/- per 10 mbps per annum

ii. More than 10 mbps but below 100 mbps: Rs.7000/- per each 10 mbps pa. Including first 10 Mbps.  

(C)Bandwidth at OLT as 2 mbps per GP and above but below 10 mbps per GP.      

a. 2 mbps: Rs.2000/- per 2 mbps per annum.

b. More than 2 mbps but below 10 mbps: Rs.1800/- per each 2    mbps p a including first 2 Mbps.

Col K K Sharma brought out the importance of cable TV networks in providing broadband in rural areas. There are about 60000 cable operators all across the country including 35% of them in the rural and semi-urban areas, giving cable TV services to about 100 million households for the last 20 years. They provide from 50-250 TV channels transmitting a signal of 450 to 860 MHz which includes private satellite channels/ Doordarshan channels and at many places, internet through cable modems or a parallel Ethernet network.

In the last five years, massive consolidation has taken place where these operators have either formed independent MSO (Multi System Operators) companies connecting one another using fibre optic cables or become franchisee of the existing national or regional MSOs and provide last mile services on HFC broadband networks.

 In this way, there are 7000 headends in the country serving 100 million Cable TV homes. Some of these headends already provide digital feeds, mostly in the four metros and some big cities following the mandate of the government for going digital by 2014 in the whole country.

 Apart from these headends, there are many small networks working independently in the faraway places serving a few subscribers in the rural areas providing them with Free to Air (FTA) channels including Doordarshan channels and local channels. Even these operators use fibre optic cables to extend their networks covering many villages as fibre optic cables can take the signals for long distances without any loss and provide many channels without intermediate power supplies or distribution equipment.

 They use low cost indigenously manufactured/ asembled optical equipment and fibre optic cables because these cables are cheaper than co-axial cables. The equipment including optical transmitters, nodes and splitters are manufactured/ distributed by thousands of small manufacturers using imported components.

These operators have also generated lakhs of employment opportunities for the local people and trained them to use sophisticated equipment like the Splicing machines, OTDR, transmitters and nodes. 

Being local residents, these operators are the best to provide broadband connections in the rural areas as they know the consumers and the market very well.

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