For one of the salutary Digital India initiatives – Project Bharat Net- the silver lining is still obscure. Impeded now by RoW, the project needs a future proof network architecture for our nation.
Launched by The Government of India (GOI) project Bharat Net is one among the nine pillars of mission Digital India. Funded by Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) the project aims to build highly scalable network infrastructure making broadband connectivity (2 Mbps to 20 Mbps) affordable and accessible for all households and institutions, in partnership with States and the private sector. However, Bharat Net along with the other eight pillar projects is facing multiple challenges in successful implementation due to lack of clarity in policies and infrastructural bottlenecks.
The latest threat being the tug of war between two central ministries – The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) under The Ministry of Communications and The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways – over Right of Way (RoW) issues between them. RoW is the legal right to pass through a route or property — in this case, to install optical fiber cable — that belongs to someone else. Although such rigmarole in government projects are usual and can be solved the main threat is lack of cogent network infrastructure.
The Current Ballyhoo
The National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN) was launched in October 2011 to connect all 250,000-gram panchayats of India to the internet. Post facing roadblocks at the start the project was supposed to get a new zeal for life under the present government when it was injected with additional funds and renamed Bharat Net. In the 2018 budget, The Ministry of Finance added another Rs10,000 crore for the second phase of Bharat Net.
While the government is optimistic to complete the second phase of Bharat Net by December 2018, well before the March 2019 revised deadline, the current status of the project is at a critical juncture of execution. The cables have been laid, the devices are being installed, laptops have been allotted, but now we face the end task of actually making the right Internet architecture available to connect the largest enterprise of the world – our Indian Government.
The Network of Tomorrow
Digital India initiatives/programmes cannot be based on legacy network (MPLS) infrastructures. The project itself aims to improve connectivity and promises to cater last mile connectivity (connecting rural and remote areas). The current network types The Department of Telecommunication DoT have opted is Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS). Although MPLS has the tools to provide quality of service (QoS) and reasonable security, it doesn’t scale economically or operationally. The Internet has proven it can scale, but it lacks inherent QoS, security, and reliability
Given that networking hardware will become commoditized faster than we can imagine—switching, routing, deep packet inspection (DPI), and WiFi are all available on commodity hardware now, and their functions are easily implementable—the real challenge will be in managing, monitoring, and making the enterprise network work the way you want. The GOI and the concerned ministry DOT should consider Software defined Wide Area Network (SDWAN) solutions in the cloud (as a service) as SD-WAN is the true end goal of this transition to next-gen networks.
Software Defined Networking (SDN)—in its true sense—is building great networking software, minus the overhead of network protocol convergence, which is the dreaded reason for network complexity. SDN is primarily here to prepare the world for the surge in cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications that are coming our way.
Every Cloud has a Silver lining
India is becoming digital due to faster adoption of technology. Technology is evolving at a pace which is not easy to match. What is in trend today may become obsolete later. The world is now shifting to cloud- Probably the next tipping point post World Wide Web or Internet. Digital India initiative is truly a humongous dream to achieve. It is still in an infant stage. To make India future ready every step should be degusted to address challenges effectively and expeditiously. The need of the day is to build an exclusive fully firewalled Internet Cloud that can provide secure internet network and connectivity for the various needs of the country. To end with, if every cloud has a silver lining, then SD-WAN is the one for not only Bharat Net but for Digital India.