On 10th August 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Submarine optical fibre cable network connectivity to the Andaman and Nicobar islands via video conference. The mammoth project of laying down 2300 KM of optical fibre cable was started in December 2018 during PM Modi’s visit to the Islands.
Laying the massive length of cable on the seafloor was not an easy task. It involved extensive engineering works, specialised machinery and a lot of skills.
Though India is leading the way in providing fast mobile internet services at cheap rates, the residents of Andaman and Nicobar Islands had to wait for a long time for the services. With this project, the residents and tourists on the Islands will be able to enjoy high-speed internet services.
Some facts about the OFC project
The project covers 2,313 Kms of Under Sea cable between Chennai and Port Blair and nearby areas.
The total cost of the project is Rs. 1,224 Crore.
BSNL completed the project in less than the projected 24-month period.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands will be able to receive high-speed 4G mobile internet services.
This project will boost Digital Services like Tele-education, TeleHealth, eGovernance Services and tourism on the islands.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are strategic in terms of sea route for trade. These Islands are only 100 KM away from Indonesia. From the security point of view, Andaman and Nicobar Islands make it easier to keep a check on the International waters.
The Indian government is developing ports to enable large ships to use these islands as halt point. High-speed internet will help in providing better services at the ports.
Challenges associated with undersea optical fibre cable projects
Under-sea fibre cable connectivity is not something that is new for those who are familiar with the field. There are hundreds of projects across the world connecting continents via fibre cable. These submarine cable networks are used for high-speed data transfer from server locations to every part of the world. Though the networks have notable benefits, there is no denying that these projects come with the challenges of their own.
- While laying down the fibre cable, the engineers working on the project have to be highly skilled not only in the technology but also have to be comfortable with working in deep waters. They have to wear special diving suits while laying down the cables to ensure they can work for a longer duration.
- During monsoon season, the sea between Chennai and Andaman and Nicobar Islands experience high tides. It is next to impossible to continue working in such a condition where tides can go as high as several meters. The engineers have to factor in the damage that these tidal waves can cause to the cable and the protective structure while designing them.
- The uneven seabed is another challenge that the engineers have to work on while laying down the wires. The seabed is not like a road. It is uneven, and the depth can differ after every few meters making the project more challenging.
- Sea animals, seawater and sea plants are all enemies of such structures. They can damage the wires extensively, and thus while designing the wires and the outer cover, the engineers have to make it rustproof and strong to enhance durability.
- It is essential to monitor data transfer all the time so that if there is a problem or breakage in the structure, it can be rectified. Keep in mind that the newly inaugurated structure is around 2300 KM in length. That means to ensure proper monitoring; it has to be equipped with sensors that can detect the problem at a certain point and provide a precise location of the problem for repairs. It increases the cost of the project substantially.
The dependence of upcoming projects on the OFC network
The government is upgrading the Port Blair airport, and several projects are on the final stages in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. A port is also being developed that will allow international ships to halt. With the high-speed internet, it will be easier for the government to provide better services at airports, ports etc.
Tourists at Andaman and Nicobar Islands often complained about the lack of high-speed internet services. With the new OFC network, tourists will find it easier to communicate with their loved ones and spend longer time enjoying holidays at the Islands.