Calcuttans can forget about cable disputes and stream Shikhar Dhawan live on their computers if 4G takes off in the city. (Reuters)
The civic body has cleared the way for Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance to lay optical fibres along 700km of city roads to launch 4G services, apparently after a prod from the chief minister to speed up the process.
A 4G network can provide Internet access at several times the speed of the existing 3G networks, enabling users to stream hi-definition videos stutter-free and download movies within minutes. Airtel already offers 4G services in the city.
Reliance Jio Infocomm had approached the civic body about six months ago for permission to lay optical fibres along roads — a must for building a 4G network — but mayor Sovan Chatterjee’s team was reluctant to give the go-ahead fearing that power lines, water pipes and other underground utilities might be damaged in the process.
To win the CMC’s approval, the company promised to accurately map the underground utilities using a technology rarely used in Calcutta and thus avoid any damage while laying the fibres.
“Some more time is needed to complete the official process. We will convene another meeting within the next 10 days…. The hurdles have been overcome. Our engineers will separately discuss their concerns with the company officials to find a solution,” said mayoral council member (engineering and health) Atin Ghosh after attending a meeting on the issue on Monday.
According to officials, the chief minister had instructed the civic bosses to clear the project as quickly as possible. Reliance will invest Rs 3,000 crore for the project, which is expected to create employment for about 5,000 people.
“4G will provide faster connectivity, so the project is very important. We have asked them to connect the ward offices through their network so that the CMC can provide faster and better services. Connectivity will be free for the civic body for the first few years,” said Ghosh.
Reliance Jio Infocomm, which has a pan-India 4G licence, has made substantial progress in building optical fibre networks in Delhi and Mumbai. It has also begun work in the districts in Bengal.
“We want to launch 4G operations in Calcutta along with other metros. I am hoping this is going to be a stepping stone for a bigger stake in Bengal,” Tarun Jhunjhunwala, business head (east), Reliance Jio, had said recently.
The company announced that its 4G Internet could be accessed in homes and offices via Wi-fi routers and on the move using data cards.
“We were initially afraid that Reliance would damage underground utilities while laying optical fibres. A small damage to a water pipe or a power line can have serious consequences,” said a civic engineer.
Reliance used a technology called Ground Penetrating Radar to demonstrate how accurately pictures could be taken of underground utilities. “This technology is used in similar projects in developed countries. We have used it in Calcutta only once or twice. The company officials told us that they would lay cables in such a way that existing utilities were not damaged,” added the engineer.