K-FON, a silent revolution: Dr Santosh Babu IAS

JS Manoj

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An Interview with Dr. Santosh Babu, Managing Director of KSITIL

Dr Santosh Babu IAS

K-FON is not an investment in the technology sector but is actually an investment in the field of human resources. It has the potential to create a silent revolution, said Dr. Santosh Babu, the Managing Director of KSITIL in an interview with Mathrubhumi.


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The government has promised free internet for about 20 lakhs of BPL families in Kerala through K-FON. Can it be achieved?

Yes, if the Government desires, it can be provided in a phased manner. The aim is to provide free internet access to 14,000 BPL households in the first phase and around 30,000 government offices. If the commercial service is also taken into account, currently one and a half lakh people can be provided with an internet connection. The existing system has the capability to raise this level up to 40 lakhs in the future. As more demand comes, more investment will have to be made. A free connection costs the government an average of Rs 300 per month. BPL families are provided connections without charging a single penny even for establishing cables. As K-FON generates more revenue from the market, it can offer more free connections.

What is the basic difference between ISP (Internet Service Provider) and K-FON?

All services provided by any of the ISPs will be available through K-FON in the future. And this also includes television. Now, in the first phase, all 14,000 connections are delivered to homes by Kerala Vision. K-FON will take up that responsibility in the future. At present fibre-to-home internet connections are provided, but there are future plans to provide wireless internet. In Kerala, K-FON has the largest cable network. Another specialty of K-FON is that it reaches the nooks and crannies of Kerala while private companies ignore these unprofitable areas.

Is it possible that K-FON, a public sector company, can compete with private entrepreneurs in the fiercely competitive internet distribution sector?

If the Government provides its complete support, then within a year, it is possible to turn K-FON into a Rs 500 crore revenue company. K-FON has opened up huge possibilities. No private enterprise in the country can claim such an extensive network of 30,000 km of optical fibre cable, K-FON’s Point of Presence (POP) system at 376 substations of KSEB and 14 core POP centres connecting from the Network Operating Center. K-FON is not just a service provider but a vendor-neutral fibre network that can lease the network to other service providers. K-FON is expecting revenue from a number of sources. The fact that around 5000 commercial applicants have already registered on K-FON's app is a testament to its potential.

Is there any truth in the allegations raised against the project?

90% of the rumours about K-FON are baseless allegations. Nowhere else would you find such a transparently implemented scheme. Very precise criteria (RFP) have been developed for this. The project is implemented and maintained by a consortium led by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), a Navratna company. SRIT, RailTel, and LS Cable and System are the companies that are part of the consortium. K-FON has no financial dealings with these companies. Even the bill for each work is given by BEL. And these bills undergo a minimum of three to four checks before they are passed. The cables of LS cables manufactured in Gurgaon and Sterlite Technologies Limited manufactured in Chennai are being used by K-FON. In addition, the auditing of the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India) has been going on for the last five months now.

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