India is finally plugging the mainland with Port Blair and five other islands (Little Andaman, Car Nicobar, Havelock, Kamorta and Great Nicobar) of the Andaman and Nicobar though an undersea optical fiber cable systems. Taxpayers will count $150 million (INR 1,102.38 crore) for capex and initial five years opex of this maiden sub-oceanic telecoms initiative for the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. This cable from Chennai will be activated in 2018 while its capacity and ownership remain unannounced.
Home of about 380,000 people, including the indigenous Jarawa, the archipelago is about 1,300 km east in the Bay of Bengal. Currently it is connected with 1 Gbps satellite bandwidth, which is an expensive affair. Officially the maiden submarine cable will provide “appropriate bandwidth and telecom connectivity for implementation of e-Governance initiatives; establishment of enterprises & e-commerce facilities. It will also enable the provision of adequate support to educational institutes for knowledge sharing, availability of job opportunities and fulfil the vision of Digital India.”
There are also strategic objectives.
Remotely located Andaman & Nicobar Islands is, however, not a stranger to submarine cables. Several undersea cable systems have traversed within its vicinity (click on the thumbnail above). India has not considered any of the cable to hop at the Andamans, as the United States routinely does with Guam in the Pacific Ocean. The proposed maiden cable to Andaman will be the new information superhighway with mainland. Fears of outages of this point-to-point link will, however, keep everyone on the toes unless another cable lands at a different point of the Islands’ shore. Until then India will have to run its expensive and lesser efficient satellite links as a backup with the Andamans.