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Helping an island realize its true potential – The CANI Project

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands is a treasured set of jewels, complete with pristine beaches and picturesque scenery. It is the ideal setup for a tourism-led economy to thrive. However, it was considered one of the 'off the grid' places, with minimal digital network and poor connectivity, limiting the opportunities for the Islands' people. Despite being strategically located in the India Ocean Region (IOR), the islands had a minimal role in modern India's aspirations, even though it came with a rich history of being at the epicentre of India's struggle for Independence.

It is a part of India's vision for a truly connected India that the Chennai-Andaman & Nicobar Islands (CANI) submarine optical fiber cable project took shape. An ambitious goal to thread the Bay of Bengal's jewels to the mainland through a high-speed optical fiber cable network started in 2018. Two years and a pandemic later, the project attained fruition when the cable link was formally inaugurated by India's honourable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, on 10th August 2020, making it a moment of pride for NEC Corporation as well. The place that was once beyond the horizon is now just a click away.

The Islanders can now enjoy improved ease of living, irrespective of the geography or weather conditions. They can avail the benefits of a digital economy, like any other citizen of India. Especially with the pandemic driving digital adoption to the zenith, the Islanders can also be on board with the telehealth, e-education, digital banking, and global entertainment trends like anywhere. The hyper-connectivity will enhance the ‘Digital India’ coverage and expand the opportunities for the upliftment of socio-economic indicators uniformly. This will also help in implementing island development projects, especially port-led development. Critical advancements in international maritime trade and infrastructure for hosting a full-fledged blue economy can be realized to uplift the Islands as a part of the global tourist map than ever before.

The journey towards the completion of this gigantic project was far from easy. The 2,300km subsea cable project initiated in 2018 saw many hurdles, including a global pandemic that brought everything to a sudden halt. The resources became depleted, and the supply chain got ruptured. Completion of the project became an unimaginable challenge. However, the NEC project team's resilience, perseverance, and immense support from the Customer and the concerned authorities relentlessly worked to make it happen.

With the completion of the CANI cable project, the country has already set the wheels for a hyper-connected domestic communication infrastructure wherein the remotest parts of the country and the Islands are included. Almost every industry has gone digital during the past few years, with the pandemic sealing the digital-first strategy deal. The adoption of ICT services has grown manifold across the globe, with physical location becoming irrelevant. Today, no geographical area is considered off the grid, courtesy of the web of undersea cables extending across the world.

India occupies a crucial position in the APAC network, with IOR carrying the potential to become an axis for burgeoning India's Blue Economy dreams. As the global and Indian telecom service providers are preparing to board the 5G bandwagon, it is imperative to establish a robust cross-content cable network. Through CANI, NEC has already proven its prowess in the sector. It is now only a matter of time before India becomes the focal point of trans-continental data cables, making the country an invisible enabler of global connectivity.