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5G & Fiberisation

  • 25 Jul 2022
  • 8 min read

For Prelims: 5G, Fiberisation, Components of Optical Fibre, Related Government Initiatives

For Mains: Significance of Internet in Economy, Evolution of Internet, Challenges in Fiberisation, Government’s Initiative

Why in News?

India is preparing to auction off airwaves to rollout 5G services in the country.

  • The infrastructure needed for such a rollout requires existing radio towers to be connected via optical-fibre cables.

What do we know about Optical Fibre?

  • About:
    • Optical fibre is the backbone of the digital infrastructure — the data is transmitted by light pulses travelling through long strands of thin fibre.
    • Metal wires are preferred for transmission in optical fibre communication as signals travel with fewer damages.
    • Light rays can be used to transmit a huge amount of data (In case of long straight wire without any bend).
      • In case of a bend, the optical cables are designed such that they bend all the light rays inwards (using TIR).

  • Benefits:
    • High Speed:
      • Fiber provides more bandwidth and has standardized performance up to 10 Gbps and beyond, something that it is impossible to achieve when using copper.
      • More bandwidth means that fiber can carry more information with far greater efficiency than copper wire.
    • Range of Transmission:
      • Since data travels in the form of light in fiber-optic cables, very little signal loss occurs during transmission and data can move at higher speeds and greater distances.
    • Not susceptible to interference:
      • Fiber-optic cable is also much less susceptible to noise and electromagnetic interference than copper wire.
      • It is so efficient, in fact, that roughly 99.7% of the signal reaches the router in most cases.
    • Durability:
      • Fiber-optic cable is completely immune to many environmental factors that affect copper cable.
      • The core is made of glass, which is an insulator, so no electric current can flow through.

What do we mean by Fiberisation?

  • About:
    • The process of connecting radio towers with each other via optical fibre cables is called fiberisation.
    • The backhaul is a component of the larger transport that is responsible for carrying data across the network.
      • It represents the part of the network that connects the core of the network to the edge.
    • It is necessary to increase the density of mobile towers to provide better coverage to consumers and businesses.
  • Challenges in Fiberisation:
    • Resources:
      • To reach the targeted level of fiberisation, India requires about Rs 2.2 lakh crore of investment to help fiberise 70% towers.
        • About Rs 2.5 lakh crore will be needed to set up 15 lakh towers in the next four years.
    • Demand:
      • Government programmes like BharatNet and Smart Cities adds to the demand of fibre deployment, necessitating a complete tower fiberisation.
      • India laid out the vision in 2020 to connect every village in the country with optical fiber cable (OFC) in 1,000 days.
        • To achieve that vision, cables must be laid at a speed of 1,251 km a day, around 3.6 times the current average speed of 350 km a day.
    • Right to Way (RoW) Rules:
      • The Indian Telegraph RoW Rules 2016 were gazette notified by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Govt. of India in 2016.
        • The rules aim to incorporate nominal one-time compensation and uniform procedure for establishment of Overground Telegraph Line (OTL) anywhere in the country.
          • While all States/UTs are required to implement these rules, they are not in complete alignment and still require certain amendments to align.
          • Several districts and local bodies have not agreed to the RoW policies as notified in those respective States and are following their own bylaws overriding the State RoW policies aligned with the RoW rules, 2016.

What is India’s Status in Fiberisation?

  • To transition into 5G, India needs at least 16 times more fibre, according to estimates by STL, a technology company specialised in optical fibers and cables.
  • India at present connects only 30% of India’s telecom towers.
    • India exported optical fibre worth USD138 million to over 132 countries between April 2020 and November 2021. 
    • Indian optical fibre cable consumption is predicted to increase to 33 million fibre km by 2026 from 17 million fibre km in 2021. 
    • A little more than 30% of mobile towers have fibre connectivity; this needs to be scaled up to at least 80%.
  • The fibre kilometer (fkm) per capita in India is lower than other key markets.
    • Ideally, a country needs 1.3 km of fibre per capita to ensure good fiberisation.
      • India’s fkm is just 0.09 compared to 1.35 in Japan, 1.34 in the U.S. and 1.3 in China.
  • These tower sites which are connected via fibre are called fibre point of presence (POP).
    • Currently these fibre POPs at a tower site can handle data at one to five Gbps speed.

How can Satellite Communication assist in 5G Deployment?

  • As Processing power needs to be distributed from centralised data centres to edge servers closer to users, Satellite communication can provide high-capacity backhaul connectivity to large numbers of edge servers over wide areas.
  • It can facilitate 5G broadband connectivity to underserved areas where it is not feasible to deploy terrestrial infrastructure like remote villages, islands or mountainous regions.
  • Satellite-based networks are the only means for delivering 5G broadband to users on board moving vessels, including cars, ships, airplanes and high-speed trains.
    • Space-based broadcast capabilities support over-the-air software updates for connected cars anywhere in the world.

Way Forward

  • Production-Linked Incentive:
    • In order to boost domestic manufacturing of optical fibre, the government should consider introducing a PLI scheme that aims to give companies incentives on incremental sales from optical fibre manufactured in domestic units.
  • Right to Way (RoW) Rules:
    • GatiShakti Sanchar online portal can enable centralisation of RoW approvals for telecom infrastructure projects, including 5G and help operators to deploy required infrastructure for the upcoming 5G rollout in a timely manner.
    • Recently, DoT revised the RoW rules, making it easier to install aerial optical fibre cable in the country.
      • This can enable infrastructure providers to deploy cables overhead via street light poles and traffic light posts.
  • There is also a need to increase data capacity in the fiberised towers.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Questions (PYQs)

Q. The emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Digital Revolution) has initiated e-Governance as an integral part of government. Discuss. (2020)

Source: TH

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