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RailTel: Leveraging its pan-Indian OFC network

December 31, 2013
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Established in 2000 under the Ministry of Railways, RailTel is the country’s fifth largest telecom infrastructure provider with a clientele including operators, banks, government agencies and educational institutions.

With exclusive right-of-way access and a pan-Indian optic fibre cable (OFC) network, RailTel has an edge over other broadband service providers such as Sify Technologies, Tikona Broadband and You Broadband in providing cost-effective services.

The company has expanded its telecom operations and diversified into segments such as data centre services with disaster recovery, information and communication technology (ICT), provision of broadband services to retail, and small and medium enterprises through public-private partnerships and establishment of content delivery networks for cloud services. RailTel has invested heavily in technologies such as SDH, DWDM, MPLS and next-generation network to offer operators high capacity networks for delivering telecom services.

 Existing infrastructure

RailTel has an OFC network of 42,000 km, points of presence (PoPs) at over 4,100 railway stations, a 100G DWDM network of 10,500 km across 31 cities, an STM 64/16 network spanning over 600 cities, an MPLS and next-generation network across 40 core cities, four network operating centres and a Tier III data centre at Secunderabad.

In fact, considering its extensive infrastructure, the government has involved RailTel in the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) project, which is aimed at bridging the digital divide in the country. The company is responsible for implementing the NOFN project in the Northeast. It is laying OFC in the Northeast (NE) I region comprising Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya and NE II covering Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland. The company will connect all district headquarters and subdivisional headquarters through an OFC-based STM 16/64 network across 600 locations. It plans to lay 12,300 km of OFC in the Northeast by December 2014. Under the NOFN project, RailTel is responsible for connecting 36,000 panchayats in 124 districts across 11 states. Having completed a pilot project in north Tripura’s Panisagar district, the company is laying over 75,000 km of fibre.

Also, RailTel has been playing a key role in supporting the government’s initiative to create the National Knowledge Network. The project is envisaged as a multi-gigabit pan-Indian network for offering a unified high speed network backbone for all knowledge-related institutions in the country. RailTel’s scope of work includes deployment of 26 core, 128 distribution and 343 access links. So far, it has installed 26 core, 90 distribution and 320 access links. It is currently laying another 2,400 km of access network.

 Key projects

To consolidate its position in the Indian telecom market, RailTel plans to offer flexible virtual private network services along with value-added services such as data centre services, cloud and telepresence to corporates and enterprises. The company has undertaken a project to expand the reach of its high speed internet service, RailWire, to rural homes in Tamil Nadu by linking its OFC network to cable TV connections. The company has formed revenue sharing partnerships that allow multi-system operators and local cable operators to share its OFC network and PoPs established along railway lines across the state to provide last mile connectivity to rural households. The RailWire service has been designed to provide an open source content delivery platform for offering services including broadband, IP telephony, e-HealthCare, e-education, gaming and video-on-demand to individuals, and small and medium businesses.

Through the RailWire service, RailTel delivers broadband services at 256 kbps to 10 Mbps to about 2,500 subscribers in 16 of Tamil Nadu’s 32 districts. The company is witnessing growth in the business with the addition of about 3,000 subscribers per month. It aims to establish a broadband user base of 25,000 in Tamil Nadu by end-2013. RailTel is also looking at business opportunities offered by the Telecom Centre of Excellence, which has been recently set up at the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee. The centre has been established as part of a tie-up with the institute and the Department of Telecommunications. The facility will lead research and development activities in the areas of broadband and ICT to provide affordable services to citizens and develop vernacular content.

 The way forward

Going forward, RailTel aims to convert its existing infrastructure into a high capacity DWDM-based network. The company is redesigning its network architecture with smaller rings and provisioning access, and core layers with multiple network paths to improve services. To strengthen its position in the data centre business, it is setting up another data centre in Gurgaon. RailTel plans to use the data centre for launching a content delivery network targeting enterprises and government institutions.

Therefore, with extensive countrywide infrastructure, RailTel is in a strong position to cater to the growing connectivity requirements of service providers as well as government departments.

 
 
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