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India plans to leverage its highway network to provide connectivity to far-flung areas by laying down optical fibre network alongside the roads.

The ministry of road transport and highways is planning to develop integrated utility corridors with dedicated right of way (RoW) along its new and existing highways that will be used to develop optical fibre cable (OFC) infrastructure, government officials aware of the development said.

This OFC infra in turn will provide dark fibre connectivity to telecom operators to provide internet connectivity to remote and far-flung areas.

To start with, the ministry wants the fibre network up and running along all greenfield highways. This will involve development of 18,000 km of OFC infrastructure crisscrossing the length and breadth of the country.

Officials quoted above said more highway stretches, including some existing ones, would be identified for OFC infra development in the second phase.

Given that digging fibre optic network routes is costly, such dark network which is underground offers significant unused additional capacity that can be leased in the future.

This assumes significance given that India plans to develop 200,000 km of national highways by 2025.

“A dedicated 2-3 metre RoW will be provided along greenfield highways for laying out utilities and putting up dark fibre network. Two pilot projects – Hyderabad-Bangalore National Highway and Delhi-Mumbai Expressway, having total length of 1,900 km -- have already been identified for immediate development," said the officials.

Questions mailed to ministry remained unanswered till the time of going to press.

Once the OFC infrastructure is put in place, MoRTH plans to ask National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to invite bids from telecom and Internet service providers for providing last mile connectivity and taking internet services to the remotest corners.

Officials said that MoRTH is coordinating the acquisition of common RoW also for other connectivity infrastructure such as Railways, urban mass transit and trunk utilities, power water and sewage lines across greenfield corridors.

This is expected to further streamline the land acquisition and clearance processes through integrated planning. Already on 109 km of the Ahmedabad-Dholera expressway, common 120 metre RoW has been acquired for Mass rapid transit system and trunk utilities.

In the 1,382-km long Delhi-Mumbai expressway, provision has been made for 2 metres of Row on each side for trunk utility corridors including OFC.

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