Paving the way for a direct communication link between mainland and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Indian government on 21 September approved laying dedicated submarine optical fibre cable (OFC) between Chennai and Port Blair at the cost of Rs 1102.38 crore.

The decision by the Union Cabinet will include the five islands -- Little Andaman, Car Nicobar, Havelock, Kamorta and Great Nicobar -- of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The estimated cost is inclusive of operational expenses for five years. The project is likely to be completed by December 2018.

This move will boost bandwidth and telecom connectivity with these islands while bringing it on par with connectivity of the mainland. This will prepare the ground for future implementation of e-governance initiatives by establishing enterprises and e-commerce facilities.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands house India's only Tri-service theatre command of the Indian Armed Forces and are of huge strategic importance to the country.

Meanwhile, Russian news website Sputnik has reported that India plans to have a seabed-based surveillance sensor array that will be able to monitor rival submarines patrolling the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean Region.

The report quoted government sources as saying that the project is expected to be funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. 

Currently, telecom connectivity between mainland and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is via satellites, but its bandwidth is limited to 1Gbps. However, satellite bandwidth is expensive and has limited availability, hampering socio-economic development of the islands.