Indian Air Force to launch hi-tech info grid

Source: Financial Express, Sept 14, 2010

New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is set to usher in a state-of-the-art digital information grid called Air Force Network (AFNET) on Tuesday, September 14, 2010, that will replace the IAF’s old communication network set-up using the tropo-scatter technology of the 1950s. AFNET will generate increased combat power, improve situational awareness and act as a force multiplier for the IAF.

Companies including Cisco, HCL, BSNL and MTNL are part of this project. “The IAF has not imported any foreign technology for the new AFNET,” officials told FE.

This achievement also marks the successful clearance for release of radio spectrum. While the defence minister AK Antony will launch the AFNET services, telecom minister A Raja, minister of state for IT and communications Sachin Pilot along with the three defence services chiefs will also be present at the function.

The IAF project is part of the overall mission to network all three services.

The ministry of defence and the department of telecommunications (DoT) in 2009 had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to free radio spectrum by the defence forces over the next three years. The MoU entails vacation of spectrum by the defence forces once DoT built an alternative optical fibre cable (OFC) network for them.

“The defence forces have more than 40% of the spectrum that has been mandated for commercial mobile usage,” another official said requesting anonymity. In a bid to keep up with the demand for spectrum, which is a limited natural resource, MoD has agreed to shift part of its operations that run on spectrum to OFC to be built by BSNL and MTNL. The vacation will be done over a period of 37 months, according to the MoU.

BSNL and MTNL have been building an optical fibre cable for the IAF at an estimated cost of Rs 1,077 crore, which will be reimbursed by DoT. The IAF will then vacate around around 42.5 MHz of spectrum.

OFC for the Army and Navy is expected to cost Rs 8,893 crore. The proposals for the amount to be paid to BSNL by DoT for building OFC have to be approved by the Cabinet panel on economic affairs. The telcos will lay a total of 40,000 km of optical fibre to connect 219 Army stations, 33 Navy stations and 162 Air Force stations.

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