Railway broadband to connect 500,000 homes in two years

Railtel Corporation's broadband will reach 500,000 households through its RailWire network providing a host of `on-demand' services at the block level in the next two years, a top railway official has said.

India's National Telecom Policy 2020 has the vision Broadband on Demand. RailWire has positioned itself to realise this vision. RailWire plans to leverage the Railways' vast telecom infrastructure to enable all citizens and businesses, both in rural and urban areas, to participate in the internet and web economy.

RailWire plans to deliver to homes and offices internet services with unlimited bandwidth, education and healthcare services, entertainment and e-Governance services, carving a niche for itself in the Connected India-2020 project.

Connected India-2020 envisages a broadband highway involving a three-layer network of state capitals to district headquarters, district to sub-divisional and then to gram panchayats which will be joined to the National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN), Pradeep Kumar, executive director (East) of Railtel Corporation of India, told a Global Communication Conclave in Kolkata.

The conclave, 10th in a series organised by the Public Relations Council of India (PRCI), conducted a knowledge forum with the theme 'Digital Now-What Next'.

Pradeep Kumar said RailWire network architecture provides the answer for 'What Next' as it will empower the people at village level with knowledge, skill development and core competencies. "This will lead to good governance and transparent, corruption-free governments."

Railtel's pan-India optic fibre network covers 4,400-plus railway stations across 44,300 km.

RailWire is now tapping local cable operators focusing on pure-play broadband and VPN services, content and application-driven network. "Our aim is to become a hub of local information and tool for rendering communication, infotainment, education, health and community services to the masses," Pradeep Kumar said.

He said, Railtel plans to cover 36,000 gram panchayats in the eastern region alone providing broadband services including emails, online newspapers, online passport application, tele-medicine, examination results and net surfing for students with a minimum 2Mbps speed.

The company's pilot projects at Panisagar and Girania in Tripura have aroused a lot of interest and enthusiasm, Pradeep Kumar said.

For the Railways itself, Railtel provides mission-critical services such as computerised passenger reservation and ticketing system.

PRCI national president and veteran media professional BN Kumar said it was important for communication professionals to keep themselves updated with the latest technology trends to be able to meet ever-increasing challenges.

PRCI also focuses on skill development for communication professionals by expanding its operations and network not only across India but globally as well, he said.