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Internet through unmanned airship or balloon?

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  25 Dec 2015 12:00 AM GMT

galand official comes up with altertive to optical fibre network that is 75 per cent cheaper

New Delhi, Dec 24: The Modi government is set to spend Rs 7,000 crore (nearly $1 billion) on laying a fibre optic network in the northeastern states to improve internet connectivity, but a senior government official from galand has devised a solution that may not only cut costs by 75 percent but also be more effective.

The official, K.D. Vizo, galand's commissioner and IT secretary, has suggested an altertive technology - a High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) - that can be operated from an unmanned airship or a balloon. This altertive comes at an estimated cost of Rs 1,750 crore, about 25 per cent of the Rs 7,000 crore budget earmarked for the northeast out of the Rs 72,778 crore project under the tiol Optical Fibre Network (NOFN).

NOFN has the ambitious objective of providing 200,000 gram panchayats with internet connectivity. The project is intended to eble the government provide e-services and e-applications tiolly. A special purpose vehicle - Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) - has been created as a public sector undertaking (PSU) under the Companies Act for executing the project.

"Underground optical fibre, laid in the hilly terrain of the northeastern states, with time has become defunct following landslides and soil erosion, a common phenomenon in the area because of the loose mountainous soil," Vizo told IANS.

Vizo was recently in Delhi to participate as a resource-person in a conclave themed "Connectivity Challenges in Northeast - Way Forward'. He emphasised that the region has already missed the first industrial revolution, but should not miss the second one, which is all about IT.

The northeastern region is entitled to a 90:10 share under the NOFN project, which is being funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).

"The operating altitude of this system is normally between 17 km and 22 km from the ground because in most regions of the world this represents a layer of relatively mild wind and less turbulence. It can function as an unmanned airship or balloon and it requires only electrical power to keep it and its payload functiol," Vizo explained.

Since HAPS operates at much lower altitudes than satellites, it is possible to cover a small region like the northeastern part of India much more effectively than with a satellite. Lower altitude also means much lower link budget (hence lower power consumption) and smaller round trip delays compared to satellites, he added.

"It is a common phenomenon to see underground optical fibre hanging on trees along tiol and state highways in the region. In such a situation only a mixture of wireless, satellite and OFC Network can be effective," Vizo said.

Explaining the advantages of HAPS, Vizo said: "Unlike a satellite, which once launched, does not allow for full maintence, in case of HAPS, it can undergo full maintence. The cost of HAPS is only about a fourth of a normal geosynchronous Equatorial orbit (GEO) satellite."

Vizo also urged the government to earmark a small budget under the USOF for installing of at least two such systems to cover the northeastern region with wireless broadband.

"If the northeast is to be developed in terms of IT, then greater focus should be on wireless and satellite technologies as these can be installed faster and are more suitable for the difficult terrain in the region," Vizo said.

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