According to TEMA and PHDCCI, government officials are in favour of using repeater submarine cables for the project which they say is available with select foreign vendors, while repeaterless cables at a lower cost can be deployed under the project. The KLI submarine cable connectivity project was approved by the Cabinet in December 2020 with an outlay of Rs 1,072 crore, and is expected to be completed by May 2023.
TEMA Chairman Emeritus N K Goyal told PTI, “The government officials working on the KLI project want to use repeater cables. This will lead to a foreign vendor winning the project because the choice is limited. The repeaterless cables, which are available with domestic players, can work till distance of 600 kilometer and at 30 per cent lower price than repeater cables.” He added, “We have requested government to work on norms that support the Aatmanirbhar Bharat mission announced by the Prime Minister.”
The project entails provision of a direct communication link through a dedicated submarine Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) between Kochi and 11 islands of Lakshadweep – Kavaratti, Kalpeni, Agati, Amini, Androth, Minicoy, Bangaram, Bitra, Chetlat, Kiltan and Kadmat. “We have domestic capability available for laying the submarine cable but the “product-specific” clause proposed in the project can take away this prime project of strategic and security importance to foreign vendors,” Goyal said. In a letter to Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, PHDCCI said that the repair cost of repeater cables is close to three times compared to that of repeaterless cables. It also sought provisions that can include norms to make Indian players eligible for participation in the project.