5G: DoT should promote fibre-first initiative, says Polycab's Jain
With the fifth generation or 5G networks to be unveiled soon, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) should work on allowing the fibre-first initiative, and float a common duct policy to ensure necessary deployment of optic-fibre cable (OFC), says Ashish D. Jain, Executive President and COO, Telecom Division at Polycab India Limited. In an interaction with ETTelecom’s Muntazir Abbas, Jain talks on ground challenges, BharatNet program, and Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) campaign. Edited excerpts.

How many manufacturing facilities do you have in India?

We have set up a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility at Halol (Vadodara), Gujarat, for optical fibre cables, and other cables used for communications. In total, we are running 25 modern and self-sufficient manufacturing facilities for data cables, power cables in the country, across seven locations. As the government under the leadership of prime Minister Narendra Modi, has made a clarion call for Aatmanirbhar Bharat to make our country play a bigger role in the global economy, Polycab is uniquely positioned in providing end-to-end data and power-solutions.

What is your overall OFC-manufacturing capacity currently?

With expansions happening regularly at our facilities, we are well-geared up to offer best-in-class optical cable and value-added services, in terms of delivering the end-to-end OFC-based network roll-out.

What is India’s current fibre-footprint (BharatNet & private players)? What steps do you think the government should take to increase fibre-based networks in the country?

As per our estimates, India has a little over 2 million route-kilometres of fibre-deployment. As far as increasing the fibre-based network is concerned, we expect the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to interact with all the stakeholders, including manufacturers and operators to ensure easy fibre-adaptation, with the ease of RoW-permissions, for a strong and reliable telecom-infrastructure. The DoT should float Common Duct Policy to ensure a safe environment for installation of optical fibre cables.

Looking at impending 5G-deployments, DoT must promote fibre-first initiative with incentives and promotion for fibre-connectivity in new residential and commercial developments. Further we wish that the DoT should also buy the latest 5G technologies and transfer them to local companies to make our country self-reliant, in terms of manufacturing of world-class equipment. The government should also consider the request of the OFC-manufacturers to include them in the recently-announced PLI-list to motivate and boost the Make in India model in the manufacturing of world-class OFCs and their supply.

NDCP talks of setting up a National Fibre Authority. What according to you should be its key elements?We hope single-window approvals to facilitate timely laying of fibre cables. The minimum internet-speed, being provided by operators, should be increased to ensure quality of services which would naturally speed up fibre roll-out across the country. Internet-access has become a basic necessity therefore, we wish fast-tracking of ambitious projects like BharatNet and fiberization of each telecom tower to facilitate fibre-connectivity for each household. These policies would go a long way in realising the vision of Digital India.

What are your current projects? Are you expected to complete them within the given deadlines?

Polycab has worked as a Project Implementing Agency (PIA) with its consortium-partner in BharatNet’s phase-II for Package-3 in Bihar and Package-B in Gujarat. We have already executed 99% in Bihar-3 and 90% in Gujarat-B packages in record-time. Also, we have successfully participated in another RFP to work as a PIA under BharatNet Phase-II. We are looking forward to participating in upcoming BharatNet projects in Uttarakhand, J&K and in other states.

Amid an impending 5G launch by operators, how much fibre-kilometres are required to be deployed on a monthly basis?

We hope that 5G trials are soon to be completed and we see a fast 5G roll-out. We strongly believe that OFC-supply will not be a challenge for 5G roll-out, as the Indian manufacturers have sufficient capacity to meet the requirements.