“Kerala becomes the only State in the country with its own internet service,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a tweet
Announced in 2019, the KFON initiative envisages a total of 35,000 km of optical fibre network across 14 districts
KFON aims to create a core network infrastructure that will provide free internet access to 20 Lakh economically-backward households
Close to three years after it was announced, the Kerala Fiber Optic Network (KFON) initiative has received the Internet Service Provider (ISP) licence from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
“Kerala becomes the only State in the country with its own internet service. The Kerala Fiber Optic Network Ltd has received the ISP licence from DoT. Now, our prestigious #KFON project can kick start its operations of providing internet as a basic right to our people,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a tweet.
Announced in 2019, the initiative envisages a total of 35,000 kilometre (km) of optical fibre network across 14 districts. Currently, 30,000 km of optical fibre cable (OFC) has been laid, while 375 points of presence (PoP) have been installed across the state.
In addition, the project has so far connected 5,000 government offices and 25,000 government institutions to the total network.
KFON aims to create a core network infrastructure to provide free internet access to 20 Lakh economically-backward households. The project also aims to connect all government offices, educational institutions, hospitals and partner with telecom service providers to augment their connectivity gap.
Essentially, KFON will allow telcos and other service providers to plug into their system and fill gaps at core networks. The government also claims that community-level networks can link to KFON to offer services to underserved areas.
Of the total OFC network, 50% will be leased out to telcos and cable TV operators. Once the project is complete, the state will be divided into four regions and then the operators will be selected via an open tender. These selectees will then be provided the required bandwidth at subsidised rates.
The initiative will also serve to augment the launch of 5G services in the state. “KFON will be able to connect to the nearly 8,000+ mobile towers in Kerala and significantly enhance the mobile call quality and also accelerate the 4G/5G transitions. Presently 80% of the towers are not fiberized and use radio, an issue for the 4G/5G rollout, which will also be solved by KFON,” as per KFON’s website.
The project is backed by state agencies including Kerala State Electricity Board, Bharat Electronics Limited, Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board and Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure limited (KSITIL).
Even as Kerala claims to be the ‘first state with its own internet service’, neighbouring Andhra Pradesh already has its own internet company under the name of Andhra Pradesh State FiberNet Limited. However, APSFL offers paid internet packages, while Kerala aims to offer free internet only to financially disadvantaged sections of the society.
This adds to a similar scheme launched by the central government to increase the proliferation of the internet in the country. The Centre had previously launched the PM-WANI scheme with an aim to increase the penetration of public Wi-Fi hotspots across the country. The project has so far deployed more than 1 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots across the country.
According to the Economic Survey of India 2021-22, the total volume of wireless internet data usage in India surged over 7X to 32,397 petabytes in 2021, up from around 4,200 petabytes in 2018. The survey also claimed that India’s average internet data usage stood at 14.1 GB in June 2021.