India is preparing to auction off about 72 Ghz of airwaves to rollout 5G services in the country. However, the infrastructure needed for such a rollout requires existing radio towers to be connected via optical-fibre cables. The work of connecting the towers could prove to be a huge challenge for the country.
What is fiberisation?
- The process of connecting radio towers with each other via optical fibre cables is called fiberisation.
- It helps provide full utilisation of network capacity, and carry large amounts of data once 5G services are rolled out. It will also aid in providing additional bandwidth and stronger backhaul support.
- 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. As a result, fibre backhaul remains an important part of transport across all telecoms.
- Fibre-based media, commonly called optical media, provides almost infinite bandwidth and coverage, low latency and high insulation from interference.
- With 5G, it will also be necessary to increase the density of mobile towers to provide better coverage to consumers and businesses. This calls for increased requirements for fibre deployment.
Where does India stand with respect to tower fiberisation?
- To transition into 5G, India needs at least 16 times more fibre. In India, currently only 33% of the towers are fiberised, compared to the 65%-70% in South Korea and 80%-90% in the U.S., Japan and China, according to a 2021 report by India Infrastructure Research.
- 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 .09 compared to 1.35 in Japan, 1.34 in the U.S. and 1.3 in China, the report noted.
- There is also a need to increase data capacity in the fiberised towers. These tower sites which are connected via fibre are called fibre point of presence (POP).
What are the challenges?
- To reach the targeted level of fiberisation, India requires about ₹2.2 lakh crore of investment to help fiberise 70% towers. About ₹2.5 lakh crore will be needed to set up 15 lakh towers in the next four years.
- Government programmes like BharatNet and Smart Cities will further add to the demand of fibre deployment, necessitating a complete tower fiberisation.
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his 2020 Independence Day speech, laid out the vision to connect every village in the country with optical fibre 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.
- One of the biggest issues in the way of fiberisation remains the Right of Way (RoW) rules. The Indian Telegraph RoW Rules 2016 were gazette notified by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). 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. Further, several districts and local bodies have not agreed to the RoW policies as notified in those respective States. These places are following their own bylaws overriding the State RoW policies aligned with the RoW rules, 2016.
- Other central Ministries like the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, National Highway Authority of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Department of Post, etc. have not yet adopted these Rules, citing their own departmental rules.
Can satellite communication help in 5G deployment and improve network backhaul?
- 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, thereby complementing the terrestrial network with cost-effective scalability.
- Satellite communication 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. In addition, space-based broadcast capabilities support over-the-air software updates for connected cars anywhere in the world, the Intelsat report said.
- Space-based backhaul will also provide disaster relief services, support emergency response teams as well as deliver broadband connectivity for one-off entertainment or sports events anywhere in the world, Intelsat said.
- The low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites will be well-suited to offer not only backhaul, but also direct connectivity. As the 5G standard is adopted, new markets will open up for satellite operators, including IoT, private 5G, and cellular backhaul for densification to enable more cell sites and edge devices.
Source – The Hindu
QUESTION – What is fiberisation? Why is it required for 5G deployment? Discuss the various challenges and the opportunities associated with it?