Leased Line Connectivity Procurement in India: Connecting Sectors for Enhanced Services

A leased line is an exclusive and fixed-band width data connection rented or leased by an enterprise from a telecommunications service provider. Widely utilized for high-speed, dependable, and secure data transmission, leased lines are well-suited for diverse applications, including internet access, inter-branch data exchange, video conferencing, and other essential business communication requirements. The implementation of leased lines often involves various technologies such as fiber-optic cables, microwave links, or copper lines, depending on the service provider and geographical location.

Given the rapid adoption of information technology, internet based service delivery and e-Governance, the need for leased line connectivity in the government has increased manifold in the last few years. Out of the 8000+ government agencies in India, 342 advertised a total of 1839 tenders for procurement of leased line connectivity in 2023. These tenders are published across multiple sectors in the government such as educational institutions, banks, administrative offices and hospitals. The bandwidth specifications for the purchased leased lines range from 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps. The top 3 States advertising leased line connectivity tenders are: Maharashtra (215 tenders), West Bengal (198 tenders) and Kerala (163 tenders). This analysis highlights the diverse range of leased line tenders issued by the government agencies in India during 2023.

Broadly, two types of connectivity requirements were observed. Firstly, government agencies sought to purchase a dedicated line for accessing the Internet. Next, agencies sought to purchase leased line connectivity to exchange traffic between selected locations. About 742 out of the 1839 tenders were advertised for accessing the internet.

Agencies in the power sector were key buyers of leased line connectivity. The Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL) released 426 tenders for the underground leasing of dark fiber, fiber cable, and repeater shelter infrastructure from the telecom network across different locations in India. Though not as many as PGCIL, the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited, operating in various states, issued 26 tenders seeking leased line connectivity and fiber networking with bandwidth requirements ranging from 2 Mbps to 10 Gbps. The National Thermal Power Corporation Limited in Madhya Pradesh issued a tender for hiring of three Point-to-Point (P2P) links between TVHPP sites to provide live feeds of IP cameras to MOP/CEA at NTPC Tapovan.

The education sector in the government is a key buyer of leased line connectivity. Such purchases are driven by the transition to smart classrooms and digitalising records in schools, where a constant and uninterrupted internet connection is essential. A total of 300 internet connectivity tenders were advertised by the various education institutions in India. The government department administering education advertised 65 tenders. For instance, the Bihar School Examination Board issued a tender for providing 500 Mbps and 1 Gbps (1:1) Internet Leased Line Connectivity via Optical Fiber Cable (OFC) Media at its nine regional offices. The education department in West Bengal released a tender to supply broadband connectivity to approximately 14,586 schools and circle offices spread across all business districts of West Bengal. Universities located across India advertised 50+ leased line tenders. For example, the Bihar Agricultural University advertised a tender for installation, Commissioning and Maintenance of 20 & 10 mbps managed ILL (1:1) for its 05 colleges and 22 Krishi Vigyan Kendras and its for a period of 3 years. Such connectivity is presumably purchased to provide reliable high speed connectivity to the students and staff working out of the university. About 35 colleges advertised internet connectivity tenders. For example, the municipality of Osmanabad in Maharashtra issued a tender for the purchase and installation of 100 Mbps leased line connectivity for STBCET college. Considering the significant number of government-affiliated colleges (43,796) and universities (70), the demand for leased line connections is anticipated to grow substantially.

As the hospital administration gets digitized, there is an ever increasing demand for high speed and reliable connectivity to manage the extensive data files, including medical images and records. Leased lines, equipped with high bandwidth options, effectively cater to the substantial data transfer requirements of medical facilities, while also prioritizing patient confidentiality and data security. A total of 20 tenders were advertised for providing connectivity in the hospitals. For example, the Pune Municipal Corporation issued a tender for the supply, installation, and maintenance of a 100 Mbps Internet leased line with a 1:1 ratio specifically for Kamla Nehru Hospital PMC. Similarly, the Regional Cancer Centre in Kerala issued a tender for the provision of a 200 Mbps 1:1 OFC Internet Leased Line (OFILL) for the use of the Regional Cancer Centre.

In a few cases, government agencies sought to purchase internet connectivity along with other items such as CCTV. The study identified about 15 such tenders during the last year. For instance, the RSRDCC-GM in Rajasthan released a specific tender focusing on the supply, installation, testing, and commissioning of LAN, CCTV, digital communication, and fire detection works within the new hospital building at Sawai Madhopur. Similarly, the Keezhattur Gramapanchayat in Kerala issued a tender for the Supply, Installation, Testing, and Commissioning (SITC) of LAN and CCTV, encompassing general electronics work for their locality. In such cases, the internet service providers (ISP) may need to sell their services to the system integrators instead of directly bidding on the tender.

Government owned banks and financial institutions advertised 27 tenders for leased line connectivity, to address secured transfer of sensitive financial data across its various offices spread across the country. For instance, India Post Payments Bank Ltd in Delhi recently initiated a tender for the empanelment of Network Link Service Providers, covering MPLS, Point to Point (P2P), and Internet Leased Line (ILL) Connectivity for a period of 24 months. In a similar vein, Dakshin Bihar Gramin Bank in Bihar has invited tenders for Internet Bandwidth and Replication Service, specifically Internet Leased Line, involving both Government Service providers and Private Service providers, falling under Class A and National Long Distance (NLD).

Though leased line is the preferred mode for connectivity, a few government agencies sought to use radio technology for availing the internet. For example, the Indian Oil Corporation Limited in Odisha issued a custom bid tender for services (PDO1S23151), seeking one Gbps point-to-point radio connectivity from Paradip Refinery Administrative Building to Paradip Township Telephone Exchange. The Indian Institute of Information Technology Design and Manufacturing Kancheepuram issued a tender for the Supply, Installation, Commissioning, and Maintenance of a 100 Mbps unshared Internet RF-based Leased Line.

A significant demand for Fiber to the Home (FTTH) connection was observed, reflected by 115 tenders advertised during the last year. For example, Odisha Computer Application Centre published a RFP for provision of FTTH at health institutes under Odisha e-Health Management Information System (OEHMIS). The Indian army sought to purchase FTTH connection from BSNL for its store office.

As of January 2nd, 2024, there are 56 active tenders. Among these, Delhi and West Bengal both lead with 12 tenders each, collectively constituting 21% of the total. Kerala has 9 tenders, accounting for 16%, while Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh boast 7 (12%) and 6 (11%) tenders respectively. Tamil Nadu and Gujarat each have 5 tenders, representing 9%. This distribution of live tenders highlights a widespread demand for leased line services across various regions in India.

This analysis provides a snapshot view of the demand for internet leased line connectivity services in the Indian government. As explained above, there is a significant demand for reliable internet connectivity among government agencies.  This demand will only increase in the years to come, as the government operations are increasingly getting digitized. Given which, the telecom service providers can win significant business by responding to the internet leased line tenders advertised by the government.