15 Jan Optic fibre contributes major part of telecom carriers’ infrastructure spend: Sterlite Tech
NEW DELHI: Optic-fibre cable or OFC contributes a major pie of the Indian telecom carriers expenditure on creating digital infrastructure which is also a backbone to achieve Centre’s ambitious Digital India vision, an executive of the country’s top fibre maker said.
“Telcos are making aggressive investments in digital network infrastructure, and optic-fibre cable holds a major share of telcos’ overall digital infrastructure investment,” Anand Agarwal, group chief executive Sterlite Technologies Limited (STL) told ETTelecom.
Following the demand triggered by service providers’ aggressive Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) strategy, and upcoming fifth generation (5G) networks, the Pune-based predominant optic-fibre producer is planning to invest Rs 300-crore to boost its production capacity, while second-largest HFCL Limited is eyeing to increase production capability by at least 33%.
“Optical fibre infrastructure is the cornerstone for achieving the goals of Digital India vision. Fibre networks are at the core to address the digital divide in the country,” Agarwal added.
India’s top fibre manufacturers — Sterlite Technologies and HFCL Limited — are banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s prestigious Digital India umbrella program that aims to achieve 100% tele-density, broadband for all, and fibre-based national backbone called BharatNet for seamless delivery of public services.
Delhi-based HFCL said that they are supplying OFC to a ‘large Indian operator’ which is aggressively deploying FTTH network across several Indian large cities, and a surge in demand has prompted the company to plan a 33% increase in its production capacity by March this year.
“We are the largest producer of FTTH cables, and are supplying to all major operators in India, and our products are also being widely used in BharatNet program. We are also exporting our products to 30 countries,” Mahendra Nahata, managing director of HFCL Limited said.
Both Agarwal and Nahata agree that India’s 5G upcoming commercial launch, and current FTTH strategies of telecom companies such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), and pan-India BharatNet initiative would propel OFC demand further.
Currently, the country’s fibre deployment rate is at 4 lakh kilometres annually, and less than a third of total 6.25 lakh telecom towers are fiberised today making India to trail behind many countries worldwide. In South Korea, nearly 70% of the sites have been fiberised while in the US, Japan, and China combined, close to 75% towers have been fiberised.
Between 2020-2023, India is likely to invest nearly Rs 450 billion in telecom tower fiberisation, the London-based research firm EY said.
Considering the nationwide optic-fibre deployment key to data networks, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has already set up a target to deploy 5 million fibre kilometres by 2024. India has presently a network spanning around 2.8 million fibre kilometres.
Last August, the Centre laid out a strategy to connect 6 lakh villages over the next 1,000 days with optical fibre for the delivery of high-speed data services.
Delhi-based lobby group Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (Taipa) said that the optical fibre laying should increase at least four fold to realise Centre’s vision of connecting every village with broadband within three years.
In 2019, telecom companies and OFC manufacturers have sought incentives to encourage fibre deployment in the country citing it as a critical telecom infrastructure which according to them, is a prerequisite for the 5G commercial rollout.