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|April 14, 1999||
Railways set for laying optic fibre cablesAs part of the privatisation of its telecommunications network, the Indian Railways will shortly invite global tenders for laying optic fibre cables along tracks.
A tender notice will be issued soon.
The move follows Railways' decision to offer exclusive right of way to private entrepreneurs to lay optic fibre cables along the tracks.
Public sector Telecommunications Consultants India Limited and the PowerGrid Corporation have shown interest in the projects.
The Railways has already granted right of way for two sections. While the Bombay-Madras section will be developed by a joint venture company of BPL and RITES, a public sector company under the ministry of railways, the New Delhi-Bombay section has been entrusted to Ircon, also a railway undertaking.
Besides getting free service from RITES and Ircon, the Railways will also have a share in the profits. The terms will be negotiable after 20 years.
There is no transfer element in the two contracts and the respective joint venture companies will own the networks.
According to V P Chandan, additional member (telecommunications), Railway Board, the terms of contract under the global tenders will be different from that worked out between the Railways and Ircon and RITES.
"The private companies may not agree to providing free service to us. But then they will have to pay some amount for the right of way," he said.
Ircon is on lookout for a joint venture partner. It had earlier almost finalised a tie-up with Usaha Tegas, a Malaysian company, but talks broke down after a dispute arose over the composition of board of directors.
Ircon has, however, already started working on 100-km Baroda-Ahmedabad stretch on the New Delhi-Bombay section. It has invested its share of seed capital money in this and will adjust the fund after finalising a partner.
The Railways has not set any deadline for laying of cables on the remaining four sections but Chandan feels that pre-bid negotiations will take at least two months. "We are not in a pressing hurry since we have a telecom network. It is just that we need to upgrade it."
This is the Railways' first such experience. "Since the telecom industry has not worked with us before, therefore the entire process, including the final award of contracts, may take some time," he added.
According to Chandan, the Railways opted for privatisation in telecom not out of compulsion to earn money but because of its growing need. "In the 1950s, the Department of Telecommunication was meeting our requirements. But with increase in traffic, we opted for our own network. Even that network is due for replacement but we do not have enough funds."
Besides the Railways, this will be used by Internet service providers and datacom users and later by long-distance service providers both for voice and data.
The Railways had awarded two sections to RITES and Ircon around a year ago but had advised them to go in for a joint venture because huge amount of investment was needed.
The cost of laying cables works out to be around Rs 750,000 to Rs 1 million per kilometre.
The BPL-RITES joint venture will establish an optical fibre cable-based broad band network that will cover important software cities like Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
"These cities have enormous requirement for transferring telecom data that DoT has been unable to meet. The Railways' move will help strengthen national telecom infrastructure," claimed Chandan.
The 2,000-km network involving an investment of Rs 2.1 billion has been planned with 'synchronous digital hierarchical' technology and centralised network monitoring system.
- Compiled from the Indian media
- Compiled from the Indian media
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