NOFN May Use VSATs in Future


Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

India’s ambitious NOFN project that aims at providing high speed data connectivity upto gram panchayat level, may integrate VSAT technology in future for faster roll out of the services, telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad indicated.

“We can use satellites, drones or balloons or whatever that can supplement the programme,” the minister said.

The minister said this while reacting to the suggestion offered by Vineet Nayar, former CEO of HCL Technologies and the founder of Sampark Foundation, during a discussion at the Digital India Summit.

“If industry can come up with concrete suggestions and our technical team can supplement it,” he added. “We are open to tweaking the programme’s technology.”

At present, the NOFN project does not have any provision for including satellite or VSAT technologies for rolling out the high speed broadband network. The NOFN aims at laying of fibre optic cable from Block to gram panchayat level, which will connect 2,50,000 gram panchayats with internet access.
Considering difficult terrains of India, where digging of land and paying cable would be a himalayan task, many an industry experts, in the past, have suggested to look at other alternatives.
Using VSATs or satellites and drones are some of the alternatives.
“Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg met me last year and proposed to start a project to bridge digital divide with alternate technology such as drones and satellite communications,” the minister Prasad said.
Similar kind of suggestions have also come from Google and Microsoft. Google has also suggested to pilot a project using its ‘hot air balloons’ for offering broadband services in difficult terrains. The search engine giant is working on a project called ‘Loon’ where it uses hot air balloons to transmit data.
 In December last year, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella had met Prasad and offered a pilot project for its ‘White-Fi’ technology to provide Internet connectivity in remote villages of the country.

The NOFN project which was conceived in 2011 is expected to be completed by December 2016.

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