Mumbai's Rs 1,200-cr CCTV camera project stuck in technology war

The state government’s plans to set up a hi-tech CCTV network across the city has been delayed as bidding firms want to use 3G network while cops want to lay an optical fibre network, which they feel is more secure

The state government’s ambitious project to lay a surveillance web of CCTV cameras across the city is stuck between two lobbies: one that is backing the third-generation wireless technology or 3G to connect the entire network of cameras to the central server, and another rooting for the traditional optical fibre network.

Also read: Mumbai to get 2,000 CCTV cameras by October end

The government appointed high-power committee looking into the project is torn between leading 3G firms lobbying with the state government for establishing a wireless CCTV network that would be cheaper and faster in roll-out speed, but Mumbai Police, led by the Director General Of Police (DGP) Sanjeev Dayal, is opposed to this. The cops are adamant on a network that is based on an underground cable network, which is more secure and is executed by public sector undertakings (PSUs), like the MTNL.

Mumbai's Rs 1,200 crore CCTV network
The tender for the surveillance system has been withdrawn three times from 2011 to 2013. File pic

There is a third lobby backed by fresh startups and IT entrepreneurs, who are assuring government new-age technologies other than 3G and cable.

Stuck in limbo
The tenders for the Rs 1,200-crore project have been called off three times between 2011 and 2013, as the committee on the CCTV project remains divided over the technology debate. The CCTV project has been delayed ever since the panel probing the 26/11 attacks recommended installation of 6,000 cameras across the city. The state high-power committee on the project met again on Thursday, but its members remained clueless on the final outcome.

“This is essentially a three-way war between leading 3G firms, the cable-based PSUs backed by the cops and, lastly, fledgling IT enterprisers who want to work with a different technology. This is one reason why the Request for Proposal of this project has been altered time and again to suit the interest of each of these lobbies,” said a senior minister of the Democratic Front government. The cable network is touted to be more foolproof as far as protecting the data is concerned, and it is also likely to carry more bandwidth.

Also read: Sensitive areas in city to get CCTVs

The cable guy: Mumbai Police, led by DGP Sanjeev Dayal, place their belief in the PSU-installed optical fibre network.
The cable guy: Mumbai Police, led by DGP Sanjeev Dayal, place their belief in the PSU-installed optical fibre network.

Those backing the Wi-Fi network claim the roll-out speed of data could be faster, cheaper and accurate as far as transmission of images is concerned. “This is no more a peripheral issue now. If only we could decide on this debate (Wi-Fi or cable), we could move ahead with this project faster,” said a senior police official.

Sources in the state home department said leading 3G and 4G companies such as Reliance and TATA had earlier shown interest in the project but did not agree with the stringent security conditions listed in the project’s RFP drawn up by the state, which wanted to make the companies accountable for any data theft. The government then went for fledgling entrepreneurs and upcoming companies, but began having problems accountability with them.

Last year, the Maharashtra government had seized security deposit of a vendor who cheated the state into accepting a false financial instrument. The firm, Sai Infotech Systems (SIS), submitted a cheque of Rs 2 crore as deposit for a bank guarantee, which later bounced.

The government then negotiated with the second bidder AGC, which had over-quoted the bid at Rs1,000 crore as opposed to the project estimate of Rs 864 crore.

Wifi and cable wars

Number of CCTV cameras the government plans to install across Mumbai

Rs 1,200cr
Estimated cost of the project

SC notice on 4G
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court sought responses from the Centre, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd on a PIL seeking CBI probe into allocation of broadband wireless access spectrum for 4G services to Jio which allegedly caused R40,000 crore loss to the exchequer.

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