K-Fon: Kerala’s Left govt to partner with private ISPs

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KOCHI: Kerala-Fibre Optic Network or K-Fon, the state government’s ambitious project to give high-speed internet connection to 20 lakh below poverty line (BPL) families, will partner with leading private internet service providers (ISPs) for providing seamless bandwidth connectivity.

Though the exact modalities of the proposed tie-up is still in the works, it is learnt that the government has decided to confine itself to just setting up the Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) infrastructure network while the ISPs will provide the internet connection.

The ISPs will benefit from the partnership as they can use the K-Fon’s OFC infrastructure to provide connectivity in regions where they struggle with the bandwidth. The government, in return, will benefit from the free internet for its pet K-Fon project from the existing ISPs.

Some of the leading ISPs, including Reliance Jio, BSNL, Airtel etc, may be keen to join hands with the government for the project, estimated to cost Rs 1,548 crore. “We will be holding a stakeholder workshop soon, where all the prospective partners will be invited. The modalities of the tie-up will be decided only after that,” C Jayashankar Prasad, managing director of Kerala State IT Infrastructure Ltd (KSITL), told TNIE.

K-Fon is a 50:50 joint venture between KSITL and Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB). The fibre optic cables for the K-Fon will be riding piggyback on KSEB’s electric poles, transmission towers and right of way.

The government move to stay away as an ISP provider comes given the competitive nature of the industry and the huge losses made by the existing players. “We are not keen for a competitive model. We have multiple models in mind, given the different categories of users. A decision will be taken on the model by early March,” Jayashankar said.He said in select stretches, wherever necessary, the cables will be laid underground too.

A consortium led by Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and RailTel is fast laying the cables and other infrastructure for the project. As per the terms, the BEL-led consortium will maintain the network for seven years. Jayashankar said the K-Fon project is moving ahead as per the plan and he is hopeful for a rollout in December this year.

“The cabling works are underway in all districts, except Idukki,” he said. A prefabricated shelter housing communication equipment of K-Fon known as points of presence (PoP) are also being set up at all KSEB sub-stations. “By next month-end, at least 100 prefab shelters will be in place at KSEB sub-stations,” he said.

According to him, 30,000 government offices, including all district collectorates and educational institutions have been identified for faster internet connectivity, boosting access to education for thousands of BPL families and students.

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