Administration Clarifies on the issue of laying undersea optical fibre cable between mainland India and Islands

Port Blair, Mar 26: Just three days after the statement of the Minister of Communication and IT, Mr. Kapil Sibal  regarding uncertainty over laying undersea optical fibre cable between mainland India and Islands, the Administration today clarified that the project has already began in Andaman.

Mr. Sibal on 23rd March 2013 had made it clear that the cost of the project is too high and is under discussion in the Planning Commission.

Answering questions asked by Media persons during National Editor’s Conference, Organised by PIB, at New Delhi, the Mr. Sibal said that the Planning Commission is yet to decide how much money is required for the ambitious project.

However, in a press release today the Administration mentioned that The Planning Commission, Govt. of India in April 2011 approved the proposal for laying of undersea optical fibre cable to provide a reliable and secure telecommunication link between the islands and the mainland. The A & N Administration appointed ANIIDCO as the implementation agency, accordingly bids for the project were floated in November 2011 and subsequently after various rounds of pre-bid meeting with the potential bidders, the revised bid was issued during July 2012.

The proposal is to connect nine islands viz. Port Blair, Havelock, Neil, Little Andaman, Car Nicobar, Kamorta, Katchal, Teressa and Campbell Bay. North & Middle Andaman are already connected by optical fibre cable. With the implementation of the undersea cable project, telecom services will improve in the islands and will also promote setting up of IT industries in the island providing employment opportunities in the fields of e-commerce, e-governance and m-commerce.

The project involves taking two branching units from one of the existing submarine cable from Chennai to Singapore having minimum balance life of 15 years. Presently only two companies viz. M/s Bharti Airtel Ltd. and M/s Tata Communications are having undersea cable going through A & N Islands and both the bidders participated in the tender.

The financial bid of the eligible tenderer was opened on 25.03.2013 and the estimated capital cost of the project is Rs. 413.55 crores plus operation and maintenance expenses for a period of 15 years.

Administration has already obtained defence clearance and clearance from MHA and DOT for restoration path via Singapore. The proposal is being sent to Govt. of India for approval of the Public Investment Board (PIB) for award of the work. The estimated project completion time for connecting Port Blair is 15 months, and for other islands, it is 20 months from the date of award of work.

At present telecommunication facilities are available in the islands through satellite transponders provided by ISRO. The present bandwidth availability is only around 350 Mbps, against the present projected demand of around 8.0 Gbps. Because of non-availability of sufficient bandwidth, telecom services in the islands have not been satisfactory.