To boost our economy which has been slowing down since the beginning of the present decade, it is time we built a reliable and fault-tolerant National Information Infrastructure (NII) employing not only terrestrial optical fibre technology but also the so-called ‘fibre in space’ technologies based on non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellites. The National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) which is being extended to all the gram panchayats at a cost of R21,000 crore will still leave a large number of remote areas unconnected with the NII. NOFN should be complemented by satellite communication (Satcom) to connect remote areas to the NII. Despite the telecom revolution brought about by mobile telephony in the last 10 years, thousands of remote villages in the country still do not have infocom connectivity to the rest of the country. We need a satellite network to connect these villages, situated mostly in the North East and Jammu & Kashmir ,to the rest of the country.
Mangalyaan, the Mars-orbiter launched by Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), successfully exited the sphere of influence of earth on December 1—a land mark event in its year long journey to Mars. This major achievement should inspire confidence in the ability of this prestigious organisation to launch and synchronise the requisite number of low-earth-orbit satellites to connect remote and inaccessible areas to the NII backbone. An overlay of low-earth-orbit satellites will connect the remotest corner of the country and inaccessible hinterland such as Maoist-affected jungles of Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, apart from linking island-UTs like Andaman , Nicobar and Lakshwadweep to the mainland. Such a network will also provide real-time voice, video and data communication to vessels in high seas, when they are at the mercy of the elements during cyclones.
The country has a number of indigenously built but foreign-launched geostationary satellites—INSATs—positioned at an altitude of 36,000 km from the earth's surface. They essentially provide one-way TV broadcast and non-interactive, delay-tolerant communications. Starting with INSAT-1 series in 1983, these satellites, a joint venture of DoT/Indian Metrological Department/AIR and Doordarshan, have brought DTH transmission to remote areas. However, these GEOs cannot meet the requirement of real-time interactive communication, because of the about-half-second delay which is caused by 36,000 km round trip delay. This delay called 'latency' is a disability which will degrade broadband multimedia communication. GEO-based satellite links also degrade interactive voice communication due to inherent echo problem. The DoT had used INSAT satellites