Broadband infrastructure is the backbone of the Government’s 100 Smart Cities, BharatNet and Digital India missions. The thrust of the government towards the successful completion of these projects has opened up various opportunities for companies operating in the domain. Sterlite Tech is one such leading player that has bagged Smart City development projects for Gandhinagar and Jaipur. K S Rao, COO – Telecom Products & Solutions, Sterlite Technologies, in discussion with Manishika Miglani of Elets News Network (ENN) delves into the technological details of the projects. Excerpts:
Can you give brief us about the Gandhinagar and Jaipur smart city projects undertaken by Government of India?
Our Jaipur project is currently under implementation, wherein we are deploying smart city applications in the second phase of the project. We will deploy this project in around six months.We are setting up Wi-Fi hotspots and information kiosks to provide connectivity within the city. The project will also include setting up video surveillance for the public sector and will entail building multiple smart city attributes into one. We are also taking care of the command control set-up that will upgrade the existing smart city functions.
We are nearing the completion of the Gandhinagar project where we have built security surveillance through cameras and information kiosks. We have also facilitated smart parking and smart lighting system for both Jaipur and Gandhinagar.
What is the cost of these two projects?
Gandhinagar and Jaipur municipal corporations have primarily initiated these projects. Both these corporations have invested close to quarter crore in the projects. With this investment, the initial setup for the smart city applications will be set up, before the funds start coming from the Government of India.
How much does the government contribute in Sterlite Tech’s overall revenue?
Nearly 35 per cent revenue comes from the government in both product and services businesses.It is a growth opportunity for the company in the telecom space with many investments happening in India.
Can you explain the smart city concept from a network point of view?
The smart city concept is not understood correctly. Coming up with services such as camera surveillance and information kiosks are the basic needs of any city.However, a smart city means changing the overall life experience of the citizens. That can happen only by focusing on the primary backbone of the smart city – broadband network for smart systems. This backbone should be capable of working effectively around essential utilities such as water, power, clean air, and traffic management.
Smart city as a concept requires good planning from an infrastructure perspective. Smart city needs to be built in a sustainable manner that can serve the needs of the future – technologically as well as capacity-wise.
That is why we are strongly advocating the need for a smart city having its own optical fibre network. It should be smart enough to communicate with all the elements in the system, be it smart street light, sensors, and provide digital information to the common command centre. This data can be ultimately analysed and used for planning and infrastructure creation for a smart city.
We are currently focusing on the fact that planning and infrastructure creation for a smart city is done in a manner that provides long lasting benefits to its citizens.
Can you brief us about your partnerships for smart city deployments?
We are currently working with various large solution providers and strategic partners that help us in creating smart communication network and application layers. We work with all the global vendors depending on the kind of projects we take up.
What do you have to say about the government’s BharatNet project, which you are a part of?
It is a very ambitious project with a vision to create a national broadband network. It has moved into a different format in the last couple of years, and brings last-mile connectivity between gram panchayat and block levels.
It is very important for any country to have a full-fledged end-to-end broadband network. The competency for developing such a large network is huge and once the network is available, it can be used by various service providers. Service monetisation and network implementation should be kept separate.
Currently, the government is contemplating various sides of engagements with states to speed up this programme. We have participated both at the state and central level, to see what inputs can be provided from our side to support overall project deployment.
What can the government do to speed up this project?
The definition of this project has been shifted from its original context to what meaning it currently holds. Originally, it was supposed to connect the block to gram panchayat with last-mile connectivity. Later, the government realised the need to bring this connectivity to the state level. Today, the speed of this project can be increased by involvement of the states because that helps in deploying the networks a little faster with the kind of support and control the states can provide. Implementing a mammoth project like this cannot happen without active support of the state governments. The participation of private players who have the requisite expertise is also important to shape this up.
With so many technology-driven initiatives undertaken by the government, what all opportunities do you see for Sterlite Tech on a larger scale?
Currently, the government is looking at digitising their entire operations. Their vision is not just to deploy a few hotspots but also,to ensure a well-structured smart city with smart applications leading to a sustainable change in the life experience of its people.
The government is talking about modernising their existing networks. Therefore, we, being a leader in smarter network delivery are enabling the government through our expertise in designing high-speed broadband networks, and customising it. We are working with public telcos, defence, and the private sector players as well to provide the most apt technologies for their projects.
As a company, we believe that data traffic is important for the government, private telcos, and to bring about a positive transformation in our everyday lives. Only with the right data bandwidth can the urban-rural digital divide be bridged. India’s data networks need to be capable of transferring good amount of data. Both the state and the private players are presently modernising their infrastructures in this direction. This is precisely our core competency in terms of delivering smarter networks in all the layers.
What has been your contribution to the “Make in India” mission?
The concept of “Make in India” is to make a country self-sufficient on the technology and research side and our government is making corresponding investments on this front. We have brought fibre technology to India through our high-end and research focused manufacturing capabilities. We continue to invest in India and have enough capabilities and capacities to meet the country’s demands of fibre rollout for 4G, Digital India, Smart Cities and BharatNet.
On the manufacturing capability side, we are investing hugely in research and engineering capabilities. Our research centre in Aurangabad is India’s only broadband research centre focusing on various network applications and brings improved efficiencies and innovations in our products and smarter network services.
We are building another Smarter Network Centre in Delhi and all these investments aim towards building the research capabilities for “Make in India”.