Thoughts on NKN - National Knowledge Network

You might have heard of NKN i.e National Knowledge Network by Govt. of India. Overall idea of NKN was to connect all educational institutions within country including all IIT’s, IIM’s, NIT’s and various govt. universities on fiber at 1Gbps speed. Though little late and crazy way of solving problem, but still NKN is nice effort from Mr Sam Pitroda.

I was talking to a friend from IIT Delhi last week, and here’s his result from his room (yeah room, not any lab!)

Surely speed is amazing, and on top of that in IIT Delhi, this sort of speed is offered with a decent 2GB/week cap thus a total of 8GB/month which is not bad at all on 9.5Mbps! :)

NKN is a totally separate Autonomous System  - AS55824 and it takes Internet transit from AS4758 - National Informatics Center (which further replies on main transit carriers like Tata Communications, bharti Airtel & Reliance Communications for further internet bandwidth. Here's a quick look at Network layer of NKN from RIPE RIS collector. 

Clearly almost whole transit part is via AS4758 which is one of border routers of NIC linking to VSNL aka Tata Communications.

NKN Network has 3 main parts

  1. Core network
  2. Distribution network
  3. Edge network

As by the name, core network is the core part of NKN network with 18 routers linked all together at 10Gbps DWDM wavelengths. This runs on top of (un-utilized) fibers of BSNL, RailTel and Power Grid Corp. Next, core routers are connected to distribution network which consists of across 25 PoP’s across country. 

In this way most of cities are connected all together in meshed manner.

Next, last part of network - edge network which connects educational institutions with the core network. These institutions are (mostly) connected to two PoP’s over protected fibers.


NKN has been able to show real world impact which isn’t true for many Govt. technical projects. Although NKN is blank at core level where idea was topromote collaboration, innovation and information sharing”. Most of such big private networks (with Internet access running on top of them) fail badly in terms of application running on top of the connectivity layer. Same applies on NKN too. People still know NKN as “fast broadband for colleges” because still gmail works better for file sharing then a file sharing app running on top of VPN behind a proxy!

Apart from that, still there are much research work is going on in these Indian institutes which really demand for ultra high capacity for data sharing. I wonder if IIT’s are working projects like DNA & other Bio Technology related research work which really needs lot of storage and eventually bandwidth in sharing (like this one). To me it seems purely like Govt. of India accepted the fact that these institutes need more bandwidth to stay innovative (which is true) and current bodies like BSNL, RailTel were failing to do that based on their operational structure. In this manner NKN really helped in fast deployment of such fast bandwidth network. With hope that this sort of network will eventually help with a framework for projects like YouTube for schools which can have really powerful impact.

All industry needs from Govt. side is good policy and bit of investment in infrastructure. That is all enough to trigger spark in private sector for broadband and competition which is way more innovative then Govt. on application layer - creating better software running on top of Physical infrastructure.

Given fact that Mr Sam Pitroda publically says that there will not be any replication of existing infrastructure, I will look forward towards National Fiber buildout (which is just Panchayat fiber build out in a way… ;) ) and eventually having that as “open infrastructure” which can be leased by small private players for offering various services.

Here’s an interesting interview of Mr Sam Pitroda covering NKN, National fiber buildout and various other plans. Surely, lot to come!

With hope to see better infrastructure in future, good night! :)