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Optical fibre cable in Kerala: Nod for KFON phase I, to be completed by June

M Sarita Varma
The optical fibre cables will piggyback the right of way and the electric poles of KSEB ( Kerala State Electricity Board). (Representative image)

Decks are cleared to complete the first phase of OFC (optical fibre cable) wiring up of KFON high-speed internet infrastructure project in Kerala by the end of June. A consortium of companies, led by BEL (Bharat Electronics Limited), has nearly completed work on the cables for the first stretch of the Rs 1,548-crore project.

The optical fibre cables will piggyback the right of way and the electric poles of KSEB ( Kerala State Electricity Board). The BEL-led consortium, according to the agreement with KFON, will set up the network and maintain it for seven years.

KFON is a 50:50 JV between Kerala State IT Infrastructure Ltd and KSEB. It has completed survey for the 50,000 km for setting up the network. The work on the pilot stretch of 11 km in Thiruvananthapuram is nearly over.

"About 10,000 Government offices would get internet connectivity during the maiden rollout. By the current schedule, the cable work on first 10,000 kms would be complete by March. By June, we expect to cover 30,000 kms," State IT secretary M Sivasankar told FE.

KFON use will be further accessarised by installing Wi-Fi hotspots across 2,000 public places the State.

"Cellular operators would benefit as the OFC connectivity between mobile towers would facilitate them with seamless bandwidth. Secondly, Kerala Government is not game to don the mantle of internet service provider. Instead, by December 2020, we plan to get the existing internet service providers could enter the fray," he says.

The business plan is that the fees that service providers pay for riding the KFON network would be used to offset by the free internet connection bill that they incur.

"After declaring internet as basic citizen right, State Government has set out to deliver subsidised internet to all households. For 20 lakh BPL (below poverty line) households, this would be completely free," says state finance minister Dr TM Thomas Isaac. Isaac adds that easy digital access would boost access to education and open entrepreneurship opportunities to all sections of society.

In state budget (2019-2020), he had set aside Rs 148 crore for the initial expenditure on KFON. In August 2019, KIIFB ( Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board), the State’s off-budget infra fund raising outfit, supplemented the budget outlay, with its largesse of Rs 700 crore, which speeded up cash-flows to keep the project, well within schedule.