SASEC project to be delayed


The government is preparing to yet again provide additional time for optical fibre laying project being carried out under the support of Asian Development Bank (ADB). The Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) has requested the Ministry of Finance for more time and resources for the project.

As of mid-July, 70 per cent work on laying optical fibre cables has been completed, according to MoIC. The project is called the ‘South Asian Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Information Highway’ and has a target to lay 170 km optical fibre cables enabling the country to establish cross-border fibre connection with India, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

Based on the agreement signed with South Korean firm ICRAFT in January 2013, the project was supposed to have been completed within 2013. However, it is taking more time due to multiple reasons including lack of coordination with stakeholders, late issuance of commitment letter to the contractor, delay in design approval for laying optical fibre cable along the BP Highway, lack of technical expertise within MoIC, and the April/May earthquakes, among others.

It is also one of the projects with the lowest performance among those being supported by the ADB, which has provided $5 million for the project. “The budget allocated for the project was less so we have also requested the Finance Ministry to provide additional resources,” said an official at MoIC. The official added that the additional fund sought should be provided by the government from its own resources.

The project has focused on setting up cross-border optical fibre links that directly connect Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Bhutan, and expanding broadband ICT access to 30 rural communities by setting up e-centres. Similarly, it has a target to conduct research and development for building technical and business skills in ICT, particularly in developing local content and e-applications such as e-governance, e-learning, telemedicine, e-remittance and e-commerce for the people of the rural/remote areas.

The government has already selected the locations to set up 30 community e-centres in nine selected districts, including Sunsari, Saptari, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Sindhuli and Kavrepalanchowk, among others.

Due to delay in project completion, the deadline had earlier been extended till December 2014. Later, MoIC had again provided additional time of up to mid-July 2015. The MoIC official said that as the project cost had also gone up, the ministry is planning to provide an extra time of a maximum of three to four months this time.

The cross-country fibre link between the four countries is expected to reduce the cost of voice and data services besides helping improve telecom service.

MoIC has been saying that once the project starts commissioning voice traffic to and from third countries, it can be handled through India’s undersea optical fibre cable connection. The project has envisaged of fibre network of 10Gbps backbone capacity to support multiple services and provide backbone capacity for a number of services.