KSITIL Selects BEL for K-FON Project

KSITIL (Kerala State IT Infrastructure Limited) has selected a consortium led by Navratna PSU Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) for implementing the Kerala Fiber Optic Network (K-FON) in the state. The project worth around US$142 million will deploy optical fiber cable networks throughout India’s Southern State of Kerala.

K-FON will provide connectivity to all the government and educational institutions in Kerala. Fiber optic cables provide high-speed, high-quality broadband services to the end-users. The state-wide project valued at INR (Indian Rupees) 1,028 crores will be executed by the BEL consortium.

The BEL consortium includes Railtel Corporation and SRIT India Private Limited. KSITIL selected BEL on March 8, just three days before the election Model Code of Conduct (MCC) kicked in, to avoid any controversy as reported by local newspapers in India. India is going for the election of members for its Parliament from next month.

Three consortia had participated in the bid for the project in total. The other two apart from the one led by BEL were teams led by TCIL and A2Z. RailTel is known for its rich experience in the domain of telecom and ICT field. It is currently implementing various mission-mode government projects including rolling out National Knowledge Network, National Optical Fibre Network, and North East OFC project.

All three bidders are technically qualified, but Railtel’s vast experience will be useful for the implementation of K-FON.

The Government of Kerala intends to build a dedicated Optic Fibre Network called K-FON (Kerala State Fibre Network ) connecting the State Head Quarters, Districts, the Block and Gram Panchayats in the state that is highly scalable. The network infrastructure that has been envisioned for K-FON will be accessible on a non-discriminatory basis, to provide on-demand, affordable broadband connectivity from 2 Mbps to 100 Mbps for all households.

K-FON will utilize the electrical poles owned by the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB). Hence, the optical fiber cables shall be installed with the association of the KSEB on the existing poles.

Following are the major objectives of K-FON;

– Plan and implement the mega infrastructure project to establish fiber optic connectivity across the state connecting all urban and rural areas to address the digital divide. BPL families will be provided Free limited internet bandwidth up to 2 Mbps.
– Create an optical fiber backbone network connecting all Districts, Blocks, Panchayats and urban local bodies
– Establish connectivity to all Government Institutions including Educational institutions, Police stations, Health centers, and hospitals, etc in the rural and urban areas of the state.
– Offer connectivity to households (Fibre to Home), other business entities, etc. located in the urban and rural areas of the state.
– K-FON will be made available to Telecom, Internet Service Providers, Local Cable Operators, etc. in a nondiscriminatory manner to offer various services such as high-speed Internet, IPTV, Voice, video conferencing, etc.
– Redundant and scalable OFC network to ensure high uptime, reliability, and bandwidth on demand.
– All the Govt. Offices, Educational institutions, Akshaya Centers, Friends Centres shall get connected under this network through integration with the State Wide Area Network (KSWAN).

Kerala State IT Infrastructure Ltd (KSITIL) selected the BEL consortium, based on the technical criteria and also commercial terms. BEL quoted the lowest amount of INR 1,300 crore (Capex and Opex for seven years included), was selected.

K-FON is a fifty-fifty JV between the KSITIL and KSEB, which is scheduled to be completed within two years. PriceWaterhouseCoopers had completed the technical studies for the project. The Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board has allotted US$114 million and the KSEB will contribute the remaining amount.

The laying of fiber optic cables over KSEB’s infrastructure will be completed in 18 months. K-FON was first announced by the State Minister for Finance in the 2017-18 budget.

K-FON will connect more than 33,000 government institutions and provide free internet to around 200,000 households. The project will also connect 152 engineering colleges. The State Government estimates that the K-FON can save the communication cost of the government.

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