Thursday, December 02, 2021

Mumbai: Road repairs hit WiFi project

Digging of roads hit optic fibre cables too rendering 300 CCTV units defective.

Written by Rohit Alok | Mumbai |
February 7, 2017 2:59:49 am
road-construction Construction of road work being carried out opposite Mumbai University. Kevin DSouza

The city’s perennial road-digging problem has found a new victim, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s pet ‘Mumbai WiFi’ project. Less than a month after the government rolled out the WiFi project, a study carried out by the state has now identified the major glitch. The recent survey was conducted to find the disturbances to Mumbai’s optic fibre cables, which are also critical to the city’s surveillance system and have been affected due to various road repair work. On January 9, two days before the code of conduct was announced, Fadnavis, in a series of tweets, announced ‘Mumbai WiFi’. This WiFi network uses the infrastructure created for the Mumbai CCTV surveillance project. Hence, officials said, damages done to the optic fibre cables directly affected both the networks — the CCTVs and the WiFi hotspots. Data reveals that more than 300 CCTV camera units have been rendered defective due to various road repair work.

The study also indicates that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been found to be responsible for nearly half the damages done to laid out fibre optical cables, having impaired about 129 cameras, mainly in the western suburbs. The survey finds no other known culprit for these damages.

While ‘Mumbai WiFi’ costs Rs 194 crore and covers 510 WiFi hotspots with over 2,000 access points in the first phase, the Rs 959-crore CCTV network is spread across 1,510 locations and is executed by a consortium led by L&T.

“Just three days after the launch of ‘Mumbai WiFi’, three rings were down in Andheri, Gorai and Kandivli due to some repair work. These cables are delicate in nature and expensive to repair,” said a senior government official attached to the ‘Mumbai WiFi’ project.

The WiFi and the CCTV networks are both operational in a ring structure format in the city. “One ring comprises either 12-15 CCTV cameras or access points for the WiFi system,” said an official.

On the intervening night of December 31, 2016, and January 1, 2017, the Mumbai Police closely monitored the city and its New Year celebrations through the CCTV camera network. However, around Raj Bhavan, the address of the state’s governor, the police did not rely on the technology with as many as 16 CCTV cameras not functioning that night.

Senior civic officials said pipelines and utility cables laid underground were usually 5 foot deep depending on the fact if the site was a flood-prone area. Optic fibres cables, according to the officials, are laid out through a new technique of micro trenching. Officials working on the ‘Mumbai WiFi’ project claimed that the optic fibre cables were laid between 3 and 8 foot deep depending on the location.

“It is the responsibility of each ward officer to check if these optic fibres are damaged,” said a senior civic official, who did not wish to be named, admitting that these disruptions had considerably increased over the past few months.

According to the data available, just a month before municipal elections, road repair work at six locations across the city had affected 101 CCTV cameras. The data further reveals that the maximum cameras not working last month was 28, at the Mumbai University junction on January 12.

Kandivli and Kurar were reported to have had the most cameras, 40 and 35, respectively, out of order. The official study also reveals that of the 16 optic fibre cable disruptions that were noted, six were due to drainage, water pipeline and road work carried out by the MCGM and the remaining are believed to unknown reasons.

Government officials have pointed out that the hardest part of repairing these cables is not the cost but to “locate the cut that needs to be repaired”.

IT department officials said about 50 teams had been deployed on the ground to sort out issues at the WiFi hotspots. “However, manpower is an important issue that needs to be addressed,” said an official.

“The technical team on field has complained of trenches that damage the wires but then to repair them is another process. We have to take digging permissions and to dig the road again is something we have to weigh in and debate again,” added the official. Questions are reportedly being raised regarding the lack of a concrete contingency plan in terms of the accountability for the disruptions and the repairs.

A senior government official said Pune too had faced such experiences but the situation had comparatively stabilised now as the CCTV network was put in place there six months before it was done in Mumbai.

“Stringent penalties are in place to ensure that service levels of the system are not dropped. The time period imposed to repair is less than 48 hours,” claimed the official, though he did not mention what is the penalty levied.

Meanwhile, Mumbai Police spokesperson Ashok Dudhe said all this had not been a problem “from a policing point of view”.

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