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India-Bangladesh Internet Bandwidth Pact during Modi-Hasina meet: Golden opportunity for Tripura
Saumen Sarker
India-Bangladesh Internet Bandwidth Pact during Modi-Hasina meet: Golden opportunity for Tripura
PHOTO : South Asia under sea fiber cabling Network

Tripura is witnessing an era of enormous historic importance as India and Bangladesh are being led by two strong visionaries, who are determined to cement ties between both countries on strong footing to improve economic conditions, overall development of this backward region. Its a sheer luck of Tripura that Narendra Modi is Indian Prime Minister and Sheikh Hasina is Bangladesh Premier at this crucial juncture of South Asian geo-politics and revival of economic blueprint fueled by mutual desire of both dynamic leaders.

India and Bangladesh will sign a pact on sharing Internet bandwidth as a result of which the submarine cable providing Net to Bangladesh will travel to Agartala from Cox\'s Bazar via Brahmanbaria. The agreement is likely to be signed during PM Narendra Modi\'s Dhaka visit in June 6-7, an Indian diplomat told TIWN.

Bangladesh has agreed to sell off its unused submarine Internet bandwidth to India\'s state owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) for $ 1.2 million ( Rs 7.7 crores) a year.

The agreement will be for four years and India will gain 10 Gbps (gigabits per second) bandwidth in the first year with a provision for this to go up to 40 Gbps per second in the subsequent years. India is going for purchasing this surplus unused bandwidth from Bangladesh to develop the IT industry in Northeast.

Agartala could emerge as the hub of the IT industry in Northeast India if the State Government moves fast enough to create necessary infrastructures. The State\'s Left Government can invite IT majors like Infosys who have threatened to pull out of West Bengal after Mamata Banerjee government refused to give SEZ status to the IT parks that top companies were intending to create infrastructures.

"Instead of wasting money on building community halls, stadiums and other non-productive works, the state government should immediately create necessary infrastructure for IT parks ," said a senior Tripura government official, but on condition of anonymity.

A well known saying  " Success happens when Preparation meets opportunity ".   Its very important now that State\'s IT policy advisors understand the enormous boost on Tripura\'s Economy in coming decades if Tripura can capitalize this golden opportunity of developing Agartala as IT hub of North East India.

To make Agartala a successful IT Hub, it needs much more hard work and pragmatism than just the 10 to 40 Gbps Internet bandwith via Bangaldesh-South East Asia  undersea fiber cabling.

Most important 1st step is to understand How these extra Internet Bandwidth can change Tripura\'s economy ?

Tripura has multiple advantages over other North Eastern States as its  the most politically stable state in NE India, Tripura generates excess power from OTPC Palatana and Monarchak Plants , also a  Industry friendly State Government.  Howvever so far Tripura lacked high speed internet bandwidth as State\'s Internet traffic routed via Guwahati / Shillong to rest of India. Due to poor connectivity via  Guwahati / Shillong, Internet users in Tripura suffered for decades.

IT (Information Technology)  Industry mostly consists of  Design & Engineering, Software Development, Networks & Communications, IT backoffice operations, Large scale remote maintenance etc.

High bandwidth Internet is a must for survival of every sector of IT Industry  as it needs to connect to worldwide over Internet  24x7  365 days a year.  Seamless internet connectivity, uniterrupted power is basic necessity for developing a successful IT Hub.

I would strongly recommend to form a Task Force consists of  few IT educated visionaries, few dynamic officials who will identify a large area around Agartala for IT Park where at least 15 to 20 IT companies can operate, which will generate employment for at least 5000  IT professionals. Once these 15 to 20 companies cna operate seamlessly for a year, many more IT companies will come to invest in Tripura.

After task force is formed, a large land identified, State Govt  need to rope in Central Govt and DoNER to invest in necessary infrastructures. Also Tripura Govt can approach ADB (Asian Development Bank) and Indian Banks for necessary financial support. 

Once finance is in place, infrastructure plan finalized , Tripura\'s IT educated Ministers need to visit top IT companies like Infosys, Wipro, TCS etc in Bangalore, Bombay, Delhi, Hyderabad to convince captains of Indian IT Industry to invest in Tripura. This part needs excellent relationship skills, IT expertise,some vision and powerpoint presentation skills like AP Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu.

India\'s East and North East region lagging behind in IT not just because Central Govt ignored these States over decades , but most importantly these NE States always stayed busy in internal squabblings, leaders lacking visions and never botthered to create IT infrastructures. 

Important Steps to create Agartala a successful IT Hub

Step 1: 

Set up  IT Liaison Offices  in Bangalore, Bombay, Delhi with experienced, motivated and IT knowledgeable professionals(not necessary Govt employees) who will oversee IT Investments in Tripura

Step 2:  

Create an IT Park(a large area ) with Central Govt / ADB assistance - where these following facilities will be needed     

             a) Uninterrupted Electricity

             b) High Bandwidth(something like 10 to 40 Gbps ) Internet Connectivity with rest of World  via Bangladesh undersea fiber / or over Bangaldesh to Calcutta Internet gateway.           

            c) Asking BSNL or any of the ISPs(Internet Service Providers) to make Agartala as Internet Gateway on par like Calcutta - so that Agartala will connect to Chennai or Bombay Backbone WAN (wide area network) - Agartala will function as North East India\'s Internet Gateway..    

             d) Banking facilities from smart Banks like Axis/Citibank/ICICI, Courier services like DHL/UPS

             e) Food & other amenities for at least 1000 IT Professionals minimum at beginning.

Step 3: Finalizing Plans to offer SEZ and Tax benifits for 5 to 10 yrs to companies so that they feel attracted to Tripura.

Step 4: Internet and Network Design for Tripura

            ISPs like BSNL will have their core Network Equipments housed at IT Park Data Center - IT Park Network Infrastructure backbone will be running on advance CarrierClass Routing/Switching  on Siemens / Alcatel/Cisco ASR 9000 platforms.  Every IT company can buy needed bandwidth from any ISPs (housed in IT Park Data Center)

Step 5: Making Housing, recreation Complex for IT professionals so that outside state people can have all reqd ameneties

Step 6: Make Agartala fully Wifi enabled City  - Wireless Network  will cover 5 km by 5 km - total 25 sq. kms centering IT Park so that anyone will have high speed internet always - companies like Tata can do this. People can buy wifi-internet at nominal rate and save money on expensive 3G Data services.

Step 7: Planning Marketing Brochures and attending IT Summits in important Indian Cities where Govt can meet Private Companies and can offer every facilities mentioned above

Step 8: Meeting company heads like TCS, Wipro and requesting to invest in Tripura IT Park in the form of Backoffice operations, Software Dev Center

Step 9: Inviting US, UK, Canada, Singapore Consulates to provide consultancy help to reach out their business communities to invest in Tripura 

Step 10: Once Tripura gets 5 to 10 major Indian companies investing in Tripura then Govt can approach Foreign Companies to invest

Step 11: Tripura based all public sectors like Railways, ONGC and others need to invest some amount and open their software centers inside IT Park- it can be done by requesting their higher ups. In addition with Center\'s assistance Govt can get other public sectors to invest in IT in Tripura.

Step 12 : Increasing flights, Fixing susidized or fixed Airfare in Calcutta- Agartala route so that travel for IT professionals become affordable. Improving Hospitals, Healthcare, Schools, civic amenities is a must,

To accomplish all these above – Govt needs at least 10 motivated individuals to run this project and roughly Rs.200 crores infrastructure. Once outside investment pours in - Govt can recover the money invested in the form of tax revenue.

To make  IT a success – needs excellent manpower, uninterrupted flow of electricity, high speed Internet connectivity and warm welcoming friendly environment.

In current age, Industrialists donot come to doorstep of Ministers, it’s the other way around -  Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra, Karnataka etc  visit major IT industries in USA, UK , Europe and successfully market their State for IT investments.

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