ARMY STATIC SWITCHED COMMUNICATION NETWORK (ASCON)
The concept of modern day warfare envisages rapid concentration of mobile mechanised forces at a point of decision to deliver a crippling blow to the enemy using accurate lethal weapons available in the arsenal. This requires an extremely responsive and survivable communication system which should support a smooth information flow from tactical battle area to the decision nerve centres which are much behind the theatre of operation. In an intricately woven fabric of a field force, the Corps of Signals provides the Central Nervous System, the slightest malfunction of which can paralyse the best of military operations.
In their ceaseless endeavour to learn from, and better the past performances, the Corps of Signals has introduced from time to time, state-of-the-art systems. Introduction of Army Static Switched Communication Network (ASCON) revolutionised communications bringing about qualitative and quantitative changes. This highly sophisticated communication network is the consequence of the pioneering and visionary skills of the Corps of Signals and dedicated and perfected engineering expertise of the engineers of ITI Ltd. State-of-the-art digital technology is employed in the system which would support the Army along the nation’s most vulnerable borders. Matchless in performance, the network provides all telematics facilities, namely Voice, Data, Telex and Video. Many value added services had been provided in an integrated manner at the important operational headquarters. Despite the magnitude of task and the constraint of time for its completion, no essential details were overlooked. The network was implemented and made operational in a record time with impeccable finesse; and that too indigenously, before multinational technology came into India.
ASCON was initially essentially a wide network of microwave radio stations located along the length and breadth of the country. Fibre optics and satellites have also been used for bulk information transfer. These stations called Nodes house digital radio equipments; the Voice Switch to switch speech calls and the Data Switch for telex and data calls. The power to these nodes is either provided from commercial mains or generators. However, solar panels have also been used to conserve on energy resources of the country as well as to cater for the nodes located in remote areas where commercial mains are not available. The node complex also houses the latest state-of-the-art Network Management System supported by highly sophisticated fault tolerant computers which helps to monitor the pulse of the network in real time. The network has the requisite flexibility to absorb new technologies and provide ISDN type of services to meet Army’s communication requirements of 21st century.
ASCON caters for integration with tactical area network AREN, Combat Net Radio, DOT and other networks. In addition to provision of Voice, Telex and Data facilities, it made possible to connect calls from remotest corner of the country to anywhere in the network almost instantaneously providing much needed emotional support to separated families.
To cater for the specific requirements of the Army in which the system has to survive in extreme hostile conditions, the concept of Mobile Nodes was introduced. These mobile nodes can replace the existing static nodes which get damaged due to enemy action. These can also be used as repeaters for extending ranges or to create an additional direction of connectivity to cover the remotest areas. These can be set up in a short time thereby providing total flexibility.
The origin of ASCON lies in the foresight of former accomplished Signal Officers-in-Chiefs and illustrious officers of the Corps of Signals who conceived and gave directions to this futuristic network. Credit goes to all rank and file who have been instrumental in conceptualising, planning and successful execution and fielding of the project. The Corps of Signals and M/s ITI Ltd, who provided the turnkey epicenter, merit compliments for their superlative efforts, the rewarding relationship was based on complete understanding, confidence and team work.
The project was monitored by and executed under the directions of a high level Steering Committee appointed by the CCPA and headed by the Defence Secretary. Steering and managing a project of this magnitude and complexity, and its ultimate realisation was a stupendous task. Decisions had to be made at times, with inadequate inputs and calculated risks taken to ensure that the project and the related activities were completed in time and without any cost escalation. The journey from the inception to the successful execution of the project punctuated with moments of success, jubilation, disappointments and apprehensions, had been characteristics of strong resolve and an unshakable determination to succeed. It is a classic example of what collective efforts of the Government, Industry and the Army can produce when confronted with a challenge and ably led by people of vision who can take risks, make quick decisions while inspiring and effectively motivating the team.
[Lt Col AM Unyal, Army Static Switched Communication Network (ASCON), The Signalman, Nov 1995, Pages 17-18 ]
The conventional communication system that was in existence till mid eighties suffered from numerous drawbacks. Especially in border areas, the problem for the Army assumed manifold proportions because of the large frontier and ruggedness of the terrain. The old system of communication was based on BOPEL (Border Permanent Lines) and Department of Telecommunication (DOT) communication network, which were not very extensive in coverage. The salient drawbacks of these system were as follows :-
(a) Lack of DOT set-up in border areas to meet full-fledged requirements of Army.
(b) Poor reliability of communication especially due to weather or enemy action.
(c) Poor time response of DOT communication.
Due to these drawbacks, the Army proposed a static communication network along the Western border. This was to be totally operated by Army personnel and was known by its acronym ASCON (Army Static Switched Communication Network). The project was a network based on communication nodes linked together by microwave radio.
Ministry of Defence had agreed to process the case for establishment of only the forward line of nodes in the Western Sector. The proposal was put up to Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs(CCPA) by the Ministry of Defence for approval of the project. A case for procurement of six troposcatter terminals of static version was progressed for Government Sanction for establishing three links in Southern Command.
Concept and Architecture of ASCON
ASCON was conceived as a strategic and theatre area communication network with a view to ultimately form a sub-continental communication network for the Army. Accordingly, Project ASCON was planned to be implemented in phases. For implementation of ASCON Phase I and II, approval of the CCPA was accorded in October 1986.
ASCON Phase I covers the Western borders from Rajouri in the North to Barmer in the South and ASCON Phase II had provided the rearward integration of Phase I network with Headquarters Western Command at Chandimandir and Army Headquarters at Delhi. ASCON Phase I and II were implemented fully and are under extensive use by the Army. One is quite aware of its network layout connectivity and diagrammatic representations are well known. Due to security constraints these need not be covered..
Because of financial constraints, ASCON was initially restricted to our Northern and Western borders only. However, approval in principle was accorded for the growth of ASCON Phases I and II networks to include more stations for ensuring network survivability and redundancy as also up conversion of repeaters to nodes to obtain greater flexibility.
Though static, ASCON is capable of meeting unforeseen requirements. It is linked to the main decision making centres in the hinterland using different medias including Optical Fibre Cable linkages. For several of the remote network stations extensive use of non-conventional sources of energy has been made. The operations in selected areas are also made possible through satellite. A high degree of security and Network Management System facilities, are the added features. It catered for total integration with the tactical mobile Army Radio Engineer Network (AREN) Communication System.
A force multiplier, the accomplishment of ASCON was subsequently planned to be enhanced, as it was poised for further nationwide expansion in the 8th and 9th plan periods. The foundation for a technologically secure India was made possible with the reliable, responsive, effective, flexible and digital backbone system.
ASCON was based on 120 channels highway and with automatic switching. The network would provide voice, data and telegraph facilities on subscriber trunk dialing basis. The network was equipped to support the needs for rearward communication media of Command, Control, Communication & Intelligence (C3I) based systems. ASCON was to greatly improve operational readiness, give greater flexibility of deployment and redeployment and afford larger dispersion capability than hither-to-fore.
Approval of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) was obtained in April 1985 for establishing ASCON System at an approximate cost of RS 32.92 crores. This was enhanced to Rs 112.92 cr in Oct 1986 for the following network :-
Phase 1 - Rs 99.99 cr
Phase 2 - Rs 11.93 Cr
ASCON Mobile - Rs 1.00 Cr
Total - Rs 112.92 Cr
Establishment of ASCON
Govt of India, Min of Defence vide their letter No 16 (1)/83/DS (System) dated 18 Jul 85 sanctioned the establishment of the ASCON and also constituted the Steering Committee under the Chairmanship of the Defence Secretary. Powers of the Steering Committee for ASCON have also been given in the above Govt letter. The ibid letter is reproduce below.
Ministry of Defence
Government of India
New Delhi, the 18 Jul 85
The Chief of the Army Staff
Subject :- ARMY STATIC SWITCHED COMMUNICATION NETWORK (ASCON) STEERING COMMITTEE
I am directed to convey the sanction of the Government of India for establishing the ASCON and I am further directed to convey the sanction of the President to the formation of a Steering Committee under the Defence Secretary for the expeditious implementation of the project ASCON.
2. I am further directed to convey the sanction of the President to the composition of the Steering Committee (ASCON) will be as shown in Appendix A attached and the powers of the Steering Committee as given in Appendix B attached.
3. This issues with the concurrence of the Ministry of Defence (Finance), Government of India vide their UO No 24516 dated 12 July 1985
Copy to :-
SO to Defence Secretary
Scientific Adviser to the Raksha Mantri
Secretary Department of Defence Production
Secretary Department of Telecommunication
Chief of the Air Staff
Deputy Chief of Army Staff
The Comptroller General of Defence Accounts
The Director of Audit, Defence Services
The Senior Deputy Director of Audit
Defence Services Western Command, Chandigarh
The Controller of Defence Accounts
Western Command Chandigarh (including one copy signed in ink)
GS Branch (S;igs 7), Army Headquarters – 20 copies
Directorate of Plan ADGES (2 copies)
Director PMO Plan AREN (2 copies)
(Refers to Para 2 of Ministry
of Defence letter No16(1)/83/DS
(Systems) dated 18 Jul 85)
1. The composition of the Steering Committee is as under :-
(a) Defence Secretary - Chairman
(b) DCOAS - Vice Chairman
(c) Ministry of Defence
(i) JS (P and C) - Member
(ii) Addl FA (K) - Member
(iii) JS (Projects) - Member
(iv) CC R&D (M) - Member
(d) Ministry of Communication
Member (TD) Department of - Member
(i) SO-in-C - Member
(ii) DG Works - Member
(iii) D DG Tels/Director - Member Secretary
ASCON Working Group
(f) Any other Coopted member such - Member
As Project Director, RCPO
(Refers to Para 2 of Ministry
of Defence letter No16(1)/83/DS
(Systems) dated 18 Jul 85)
POWER OF THE STEERING COMMITTEE FOR ARMY STATIC
SWITCHED COMMUNICATION NETWORK (ASCON)
1. Approve the qualitative requirements of ASCON and any subsequent modifications thereto, to meet the Army’s requirements of communications in the border areas under ASCON.
2. To approve any changes in the scales of equipment and topology of ASCON to fulfill to the aims and objectives of ASCON. The scales of equipment is subject to periodic review.
3. Approve placement of letter of intents without calling for tenders, but after obtaining proper quotations for the procurement of the approved indigenous hardware forming part of the ASCON after evaluation by Government which is manufactured by only one manufacturer if it happens to be a Public Sector Undertaking.
4. Recommend to the Government for the approval of tenders from the likely contenders for the establishment of ASCON on a turnkey basis to include supply of hardware other than proprietary, execution of civil works, survey, design, installation engineering and so on.
5. Recommend development of hardware not readily available through public or private research and development of agencies and suggest budgetary requirement for such purposes to keep up with the prevailing state of the art, upto the value of Rs 75 lakhs subject to periodic review.
6. Monitor all activities connected with the development of any new hardware and approve the induction of the duly evaluated new hardware for ASCON. The evaluation methodology will be as approved by the Steering Committee.
7. Approve the production and procurement of the newly developed hardware in requisite quantity and within the stipulated time for the fielding of ASCON and its subsequent upgradation to most operational requirements of the Army.
8. Approve the contract or modifications thereto between the Government of India and the Turnkey contractor for the establishment of ASCON.
9. Monitor all contracted and other associated activities to ensure time bound execution of the Project ASCON and issue directions to initiate administrative or financial or legal actions or any combination of such actions with a view to ensure speedy and technically as well as tactically sound implementation of the Project ASCON.
10. Approve procurement of samples of technical equipment, devices and literature from indigenous/ foreign sources for investigational and development all purposes subject to the release of foreign exchange from the current allocation to the Defence Services, in view of updating facilities desired upto the value of Rs 20 lakhs subject to review.
11. To approve requirements of Staff and various other administrative expenditure considered necessary for the efficient functioning of the ASCON Working Group of the project over its implementation period, limited to 1% of the total cost of the project subject to periodical review.
12. The powers are subject to usual rules of Govt business.
Request for Proposal (REP) & Contract for Phase I
RFP for ASCON Phase 1 was issued under MoD letter No B/50803/MOD/AWG/DS (Plg) dated 20 Nov 85 given below to M/s BEL and M/s ITI Ltd. Offer of M/s ITI Ltd was finally accepted and a letter of intent under No B/50803/MOD/AWG/DS (Plg) dated 23 Oct 86 (Appx C) was issued to M/S ITI Ltd. A ceiling contract on turnkey basis for Rs 98.38 Cr was concluded on 14th Feb 1987-Another Order bearing No B/50803/MOD/AWG/DS (Plg) dated 20 Sep 88 for supply of Express Order Wire (EOW) and Omnibus Order Wire (OOW) Secrecy equipment was placed at a total cost of Rs 1.61 Cr. Thus the total cost of the contract worked out to Rs 99.99 Cr. The contract value was enhanced to Rs 101.99Cr by MoD after contract Review in terms of Art 12 of the contract.
The RFP for ASCON Phase –I issued by MoD is reproduced below.
Government of India
Ministry of Defence
New Delhi, the 20 Nov 85
M/S Bharat Electronics Limited, Ghaziabad
M/S Indian Telephone Industries, Bangalore
Subject :- ESTABLISHMENT OF ARMY STATIC SWITCHED
COMMUNICATION NETWORK (ASCON)
The Government of India is intending to establish Army Static Switched Communication Network (ASCON) in some parts of India as the operational requirements given in Appendix.
2. In case you are interested in supplying the entire system on turnkey basis, you may kindly send your offer in two parts as under in 10 copies for each part, in separate covers. Copies for Part B should be in sealed cover. You offer should cover both the topology layouts given in Annexure I and II of Appendix A. However, only one would be finally selected for implementation.
3. Where ever available DG S&D approved items on rate running contract should be used.
4. If and when import of technology is required to be selected Director ASCON Working Group must be coopted in the selection.
5. Para. This should include the following :-
(a) Compliance statement to each item of the operational requirement as given in Appendix A by giving detailed quantitative and qualitative information. Technical literature giving reference should be added in support of your offer. This literature should bring out the technology used in the equipment as well as the technical and physical specifications. Replies in detail both quantitative and qualitative to each point should conform to the format as given in Appendix B.
(b) Whether the equipment offered by you are being used or planned to be used by any other user in the country or outside may be specified. Details of user reports of usage/user trial reports as well as maintenance/repair evaluation report may please be made available.
(c) Details of environmental specifications to which the equipment has been successfully tested and results there of may also be supplied.
(d) Recommended acceptance test procedure for the complete network including all facets of equipment, civil works etc may please be forwarded.
(e) Optimum schedule of completion of the project and recommended mode of handing over the same to the users may please be indicated.
(f) Your plan for training the users on operation, software and complete maintenance may please be indicated.
(g) Recommended list of spares for two years and your philosophy for ensuring regular supply of complete spares, support for repair of modules/assemblies and diagnostics when required for the lifetime of the equipment (which may not be the usual planned figure of 10 years but much more) may be indicated.
(h) Recommended list of test equipment, specialized test equipment and test jigs for each node and those which are not required frequently and may be kept at zonal centres.
(j) Technical literature on specialized test equipment and test jigs may also be supplied.
(k) Proposed draft contract which amongst other points should include :-
(i) Clause for penalty for default of not being able to execute the network within the contracted time frame; and
(ii) Review of the contract to cover for example number of repeater stations and associated financial matters after actual ground survey has been carried out.
6. Part B. This should include the following :-
(a) Cost of establishing ASCON may please be furnished. Detailed breakdown into various items is necessary. Broad itemized details of civil works and towers is also required.
(b) Terms of payment.
(c) Cost of maintenance spares for two years should be indicated. In addition to replacement of cards and major components it should be possible to repair right down to the card/major component level.
(d) Cost of specialized test equipment and test jigs may please be indicated.
7. Your reply should reach the undersigned latest by 07 January 1986. You may kindly confirm that your representative will be available for technical and commercial discussions and for finalizing the terms of contract. For the exact date of these negotiations, further communications will follow on receipt of yo0ur offer.
(Deputy Secretary to the Government of India)
Topology – ASCON Phase I
ASCON Phase I covered the Western Borders form Rajouri in the North to Barmer in the South. There were 64 stations consisting of 43 Nodes and 21 Repeaters. The Network is based on Terrestrial linkages using Microwave Radios. The Network was divided into five Zonal Centres with HQs at Nagrota, Jalandhar, Bhatinda, Suratgarh & Jodhpur. In the Network, five types of voice switches related to the number of directions as detailed below were used:-
Type No of Voice No of Directions
1 3 One
2 23 Two
3 11 Three
4 5 Four
6 1 Six
The details of the stations with type of voice switches used are given below.
ASCON PHASE-I (ZONEWISE – NODE AND REPEATERS)
Station Repeater Node Type of Voice Switch
Akhnur - 1 E-2
Barakh - 1 E-3
Dayalchak - 1 E-2
Jammu - 1 E-2
Mand 1 - -
Nagrota - 1 E-3
Pathankot - 1 E-4
Rajouri - 1 E-1
Ratnuchak 1 - -
RC Peak - 1 E-4
Samba - 1 E-2
Udhampur - 1 E-2
Total 2 10 -
Zone – 2
Amritsar - 1 E-2
Batala - 1 E-3
Beas - 1 E-2
Firozpur - 1 E-2
Gurdaspur (Tibri) - 1 E-2
Harike - 1 E-3
Jalandhar - 1 E-6
Moga - 1 E-3
Parjiankalan 1 - -
Total 1 8 -
Zone – 3
Abohar - 1 E-2
Bhatinda - 1 E-4
Ganganagar - 1 E-2
Hanumangarh - 1 E-2
Mandidabawali - 1 E-2
Mukatsar - 1 E-3
Nathewala 1 - -
Padampur - 1 E-2
Total 1 7 -
Station Repeater Node Type of Voice Switch
Zone – 4
Bikaner - 1 E-4
Charanwasi - - -
Channibari - - -
Harisinghpura - - -
Hissar - 1 E-2
Jamsar - - -
Lakusar - - -
Lunkaransar - 1 E-2
Mainawali 1 - -
Mahajan - 1 E-2
Motigarh - 1 E-2
Naniwali Kothi - 1 E-3
RD 498 - - -
Ramsinghpura - 1 E-2
Suratgarh - 1 E-4
Total 7 8 -
Zone – 5
Baytu 1 - -
Bajju 1 - -
Badloo 1 - -
Bikampur - 1 E-2
Chordia 1 - -
Chirai 1 - -
Dand 1 - -
Devta ki dhani 1 - -
Jaisalmer - 1 E-3
Jodhpur - 1 E-3
Jalipa - 1 E-2
Lathi - 1 E-3
Lunawaskalan 1 - -
Marh 1 - -
Nachana - 1 E-2
Pokhran - 1 E-2
Sangar 1 - -
Sanu - 1 E-1
Sheo - 1 E-3
Sihani - 1 E-1
Total 10 10 -
Zonewise summary of Voice Switches Nodes and Repeaters
E-1 E-2 E-3 E-4 E-6 Repeaters Nodes
Zone 1 1 5 2 2 - 2 10
Zone 2 - 4 3 - 1 1 08
Zone 3 - 5 1 1 - 1 07
Zone 4 - 5 1 2 - 7 08
Zone 5 2 4 4 - - 10 10
Total 3 23 11 5 1 21 43
The height of Microwave Towers ranges from 20 meter to 100 meter. The maximum number of towers were of the height of 100 meter. The towers were manufactured and erected by M/S Triveni Structural Ltd and M/S TANSI under the supervision of M/s ITI Ltd who was turnkey contractors. The station wise height of the towers and weight of the towers in respect of all the 64 stations are as given below :-
(a) Height of Towers with Station ASCON Phase-I
Height of Tower No of Stations
100 Meter 35 Amritsar, Bajju, Bhatinda, Baytu,
Beas, Bikampur, Channibari, Charanwasi, Chirai, Chordia, Dand, Firozpur, Hanumangarh, Harike, Harsinghpura, Hissar, Jaisalmeer, Jalipa, Jamsar, Lunawaskalan, Mahajan, Mainawali, Mandidabwali, Motigarh, Mukatsar, Nachna, Nathewala, Ramsingpura, Ratnuchack, RD 498, Samba, Sangar, Sihani and Suratgarh.
90 Meter 04 Abohar, Akhnoor, Lunkaransar and
80 Meter 07 Bikaner, Gurdaspur, Lathi, Mamum
(Pathankot), padampur, Parjiakalan and Pokaran.
70 Meter 06 Batala, Ganganagar, Jalandhar,
Marh, Nanuwalikothi and Sanu.
60 Meter 02 Devta ki Dhani and Nagrota.
50 Meter 03 Bhandlo, Dasal Gurjan and Lakhusar.
40 Meter 04 Barakh, Dayalchak, Jodhpur and
30 Meter 01 RC Peak.
20 Meter 02 Jammu, Mand.
Total station 64.
MoD had placed an order on MES for supply of furniture amounting to Rs 41,61,570 vide No B/50847/MOD/AWG/DS (Plg) dt 24 Apr 90. The supply was completed in due time.
Financial Issues – ASCON Phase I
(a) Contractual value
ASCON Phase-I contract was for a ceiling amount of Rs 99.99 Cr which was enhanced to Rs101.99 Cr. The meaning of “CEILING” was that the contractual value shall be limited to a max amount of Rs 99.99 Cr even if the expenditure incurred exceeds that amount. This condition was due to the fact that at the time of conclusion of the contract, certain elements such as Buildings/Towers and the cost of the auxiliary equipment such as DG sets, ACs, Batteries etc. were not firmed up which were dependent on the sub contract to be concluded later on. The extra amount of Rs 2 Cr (101.99- 99.99 Cr) was approved by MoD due to the work done by M/s ITI Ltd beyond the scope of the contract. The breakup of the total cost ot Phase I is as under-
(i) M/s ITI Manufactured Equipment - Rs 53.99 + 1.3
(ii) Civil Works - Rs 31.49 + 1.49
(iii) Survey, Path Engg, Installation & - Rs 5.78
(iv) Bought Out Equipment - Rs 14.39
Total - Rs 105.65 + 2.80
(x) Restricted to Rs 99.99 Cr. (y) Restricted to Rs 2.00 Cr.
(b) Release of Payments. Against a contractual value of Rs 101.99 Cr, an amount of Rs 100.99Cr was released to M/s ITI Ltd. In addition to the cost of equipment, Excise Duty to the extent of Rs 9.33 Cr and Sales Tax amounting to Rs 2.34 Cr were released.
(c) Cost of Node/ Repeater. The equipment required and their approximate cost of a Node and Repeater are given below. These rates are based on 1987/88 rates.
(i) Cost of a Node(1987/88) - Rs 195 lakhs
(ii) Cost of a Repeater (1987/88) - Rs 74 lakhs
(d) Foreign Exchange. The foreign exchange element in respect of ITI manufactured equipment in respect of ASCON PhaseI was approximately 30%. However, no foreign exchange was released exclusively for this purpose. M/s ITI Limited have imported the requisite equipment under their own arrangement and payments made to M/S ITI Ltd is in Indian Rupees only. MoD furnished customs duty exemption certificates which enabled them to import equipment without the payment of customs duty.
(e) Spares. As per contract, 15% of the ITI manufactured equipment was required to be provided by M/s ITI Ltd as 2 years maintenance spares. The total cost of spares worked out to Rs 7.20 Cr.
(i) F.E. Components. Contract provided for escalations due to fluctuations in foreign exchange rates on the imported equipment required ie 30% of ITI manufactured equipment. Escalation worked out to Rs 4.62 Cr.
(ii) Civil Works. Escalations on Steel, Cement, Paints and Zinc used in the civil works.
(iii) Bought Out Items. 15% mark up (Handling charges) on the Bought out items. Handling charges works out to Rs 1.89 Cr.
(g) Delay in Completion – Liquidated Damages. As per the contract, the Phase I Network was to be completed within 3 years or 28 months from the date of handing over of the last site. Accordingly, the system should have been handed over by Feb 90. Final handing over of the Network was done on 17 Aug 95. However, the system was under use by Army since Feb 92 and accordingly, in the 1/95 Steering Committee meeting, it was decided to offset the expenditure incurred by M/S ITI on maintenance against the liquidated damages leviable. In view of this liquidated damages was not levied on Phase I Contract.
PROGRESS OF PROJECT
Subsequent to the CCPA approval for implementing Phase I of ASCON, considerable headway was made. Based on operational Requirements embodied in tender inquiries floated to M/s BEL and ITI for turnkey implementation, the responses received from both the agencies were technically evaluated and commercial negotiations carried out with both. Scheme for rearward integration of the Phase I network was also finalised in consultation with the DOT. A case was projected to seek approval of the CCPA to cover the enhanced cost of implementing ASCON Phase I and for implementation of ASCON Phase II.
Implementation of ASCON Phase I had slipped due to some delay in the production of secrecy equipment caused due to non-availability of Very large scale integration (VLSI) chips. Though arrangements for development of these chips were made at M/s ITI, some delay was caused due to initial poor yield in the production process. The software was rectified and the system got stabilised.
Network facilities in 16 Corps Zone were extended to users on ‘field trial’ basis. Commissioning of 11 Corps Zone progressed well. 10 and 12 Corps Zones were to be commissioned thereafter. A meeting of Steering Committee for ASCON chaired by Defence Secretary was held on 29 July 1991. During this meeting, the CMD, M/s ITI had indicated that entire Phase I network would be activated and extended to users on ‘field trial’ basis by 30 November 1991. Qualitative handing/taking over in accordance with Acceptance, Inspection and Test Procedures (AITPs) was to take further 4 to 6 months. Responsibility for extending complete engineering support for ASCON Phase I would rest with M/s ITI till complete network was taken over by Army after detailed testing in accordance with the contractual provisions. Network was to be under one year of warranty wef date of formal handing/taking over.
ASCON Phase I was fully activated and network services were used extensively by the field formations. However, M/s ITI R&D Engineers worked in the field to carryout refinements/modifications so as to further improve the system performance. 30 channels of ASCON Phase I was extended to Delhi over DOT media using fibre optic links. In addition, five channels were extended over NARAD. These channels were terminated on a 300 lines EPABX installed at Sena Bhawan.
The Handing/Taking over of civil assets and telecom equipments were completed at all stations. The qualitative testing of the network commenced in 12 Corps in June 1993 as per standards in Acceptance Inspection Test Procedure (AIPT). The Phase I of the network was taken over by the Army on 15 August 1995.
ASCON Phase I was primarily a microwave radio based network. Ex SANCHAR SAMEEKSHA was carried out in December 1995 to validate the performance of this network and also to examine the security and survivability, i.e. the threat perception to the network. Based on the lessons of the exercise and considering the vulnerability of radiating media of ASCON close to the Western borders, some of the Microwave links of ASCON Phase I were identified to be provided electronic survivability through use of optical fibre media. A plan was accordingly prepared for commissioning 19 OFC links along the Western border. The case was taken up with MoD in January 1996. Due to resource crunch, the project was to be implemented in two phases.
Approval of Ministry of Defence was obtained for implementation of 12 links in Phase I for Northern Command and the balance seven links in Phase II for Southern Command. The (RFP) with tech specifications for Phase I (12 OFC Links) was issued by MoD to the vendors on 10 February 1998. The proposals were received and vetted by ASCON Working Group(AWG) and MoD. Price negotiations were carried out on 04 August 1998. The contract was issued to M/s ITI on 15 April 1999. Operation validation and necessary budgetary support for the remaining seven OFC Links project, in Southern Comd, was obtained. These OFC links would enhance the survivability of existing ASCON network.
ASCON Phase I Bulk Encryption Units (BEUs), though graded B1 by the Joint Cipher Bureau(JCB), were exposed to radiating media for more than seven years. It was felt that there was a requirement to upgrade the algorithm and hardware of these BEUs, so that their resistivity is maintained. The Government was approached for approval of funds to the tune of Rs 2 Crores, which was approved by the Steering Committee. Messrs ITI Ltd was asked to provide a new algorithm for BEU with change of hardware. A number of meetings were held with development agencies, JCB and Scientific Analysis Group (SAG) for early implementation of the project. Supply order for upgradation of ASCON Phase I BEUs was placed with M/s ITI Ltd on 13 May 1999. SAG cleared the new algorithm on 03 April 2000. M/s ITI Ltd proceed with designing the requisite hardware to support the algorithm.
This project was contracted with M/s ITI Ltd on 15 April 1999 at the cost of Rs 12.5 Crores. AITP for the links in 10 and 11 Corps Zones were completed on 05 May and 04 July 2000 respectively. The entire project was to be completed by 31 July 2000. These links were equipped with the latest state-of-the-art Synchronous Digital Hierarchy(SDH) equipment. The RFP for this project was issued to vendors on 06 October 1999. The TEC report for the project was formally approved by appropriate authority in MoD.
ASCON Dedication Ceremony on 17th August 1995 at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi
August the Seventeenth, 1995 was a glorious day for the Corps as on this day the Corps received the appreciation of the nation for its achievement in fielding ASCON, the Army Static Switched Communication Network, successfully. This appreciation came in the form of ASCON being dedicated to the Nation by the Honourable Prime Minister, Mr PV Narasimha Rao, in an impressive ceremony held at Vigyan Bhavan. The ceremony was attended by Honourable Raksha Rajya Mantri, Sanchar Mantri, three services Chiefs of Staff, Defence Secretary, Secretary DOT, a number of Principal Staff Officers and senior civilian officers from Ministry of Defence and Ms ITI Bangalore. The highlight of the occasion was the presence of a galaxy of retired Signal Officers-in-Chief whose vision of yesteryears had borne the fruit of success.
Some of the visionaries present in the august gathering included Lt Gen RN Batra, PVSM, OBE (Retd), popularly known as “Father of the Corps”. Gen Batra was responsible to conceptualise the most modern “Area-Grid” Network system for the field force communication in the early 60s. The good work was carried by his dynamic successors, Lt Gen ID Verma, PVSM, Lt Gen EG Pettengell, PVSM, MBE and Lt Gen KS Garewal, PVSM. With further sophistication, need was felt for a digital communication system providing the vital voice and data linkages from the field force to the highest headquarters for smooth and near real time information transfer.
The proposal for a ‘back bone’ digital system with a switched network exclusively for the Army was cleared by the Government during the time when Lt Gen MS Sodhi, PVSM headed the Corps of Signals. The idea and concept of such a network was finally approved and saw the light of the day when Lt Gen RP Singh, PVSM was heading the Corps. His dynamic approach and dogmatic perseverance in overcoming all hurdles, whether bureaucratic or technical, bore fruit and the project started taking shape on the ground.
The genesis of the concept for ASCON started in Western Command when Lt Gen RP Sapra, PVSM and Lt Gen VC Khanna, PVSM were the Chief Signal Officers.
This was possible only due to persistent and untiring efforts of all the Signal Officers-in-Chief. The Corps remembered with gratitude Lt Gen SL Mehrotra, Lt Gen Harbhajan Singh, PVSM, Lt Gen SK Mookerjee, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, Lt Gen SC Ahuja, PVSM, AVSM and Lt Gen MK Ghosh, PVSM, AVSM. It was indeed fortunate that most of them were present to grace the occasion.
The Corps of Signals is indeed grateful to Lt Gen PD Bhargava, AVSM, the then Signal Officer-in-Chief, for the speed with which the Phase I of the project was taken over from ITI. He was the guiding spirit behind organising the grand Dedication Ceremony of Vigyan Bhawan.
The ceremony started sharp at 11 AM with the arrival of the Honourable Prime Minister, Mr PV Narasimha Rao. This was followed by opening remarks by Lt Gen PD Bhargava, AVSM, Signal Officer-in-Chief. In his address the SO-in-C said “ASCON is definitely a milestone not only for the Corps of Signals and the Army, but also for the nation. It has upgraded our communications to new heights and is a trend setter for defence communications of the future. It is a tribute to my predecessors, a few of whom are present in this very august audience, to have thought of communication needs of our Army in the battle field scenario upto and beyond beginning of the next century”.
The welcome address was delivered by the Chief of Army Staff, General S Roychowdhury, PVSM, ADC.
After that the Honourable Prime Minister dedicated ASCON to the Nation in the traditional way by lighting the lamp. A brochure “ASCON – Pride of the Nation” was also released on the occasion. Honourable Prime Minister then presented trophies and mementoes to various people who were associated with the project. These included Raksha Rajya Mantri Shri Mallikarjun, Chief of the Army Staff, Gen S Roychowdhury, PVSM, ADC, Lt Gen PD Bhargava, AVSM, SO-in-C, Brig KK Ohri, Commander ANC, the previous directors of ASCON Working Group and a host of officials from ITI Bangalore. In his address the Honourable, Prime Minister praised the achievements of Corps of Signals and M/s ITI Ltd. He remarked :-
“It is a matter of great pride for the Nation that the Corps of Signals of our Army conceptualised such a modern system and brought it to concrete shape. This achievement is a compliment to the present and past leadership of the Indian Army in general and the Corps of Signals in particular.”
[Col RS Chhatwal, August The Seventeenth 1995 : A Red Letter Day In The History of The Corps of Signals, The Signalman Nov 1995, PP 11-13 ]
Prime Minister’s Remarks at ASCON Dedication Ceremony on 17th August 1995 at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi
I extend my heartiest felicitations to the Indian Army on this occasion when an indigenously developed, modern communication system, the Army Static Switched Communication Network (ASCON), is being put into service. It is a matter of great pride for the Nation that the Corps of Signals of our Army conceptualised such a modern system and brought it to concrete shape. This achievement is a compliment to the present and past leadership of the Indian Army in general and the Corps of Signals in particular.
I also congratulate the officers and men of the Indian Army and the officials of Ministry of Defence who have worked on this project to complete it in record time The successful launching of ASCON is yet another milestone which confirms our continued commitment to self reliance, particularly in the field of Defence Technology.
Designing and fielding a state-of-the-art military communications system with totally indigenous R&D is a classic example where Indian Industry has admirably responded to the requirements of the Army. I congratulate M/s ITI Ltd, the developing agency who took up this challenge and designed and commissioned the network of this complexity and magnitude. I congratulate the young engineers of ITI Ltd, who put in hard work to install this system in deserts of Rajasthan, the plains of Punjab and the mountains of J&K. It is a tribute to these engineers that the major portion of the network in Punjab was installed during the peak of insurgency without any delay.
The launching of this network today is a step forward for us towards greater self-reliance in reliable and sophisticated technologies. The commissioning of ASCON shows that Indian talent and determination can record notable achievements, it is also an example of Indian industry working shoulder-to-shoulder with the Government for national benefit.
I have great pleasure in dedicating ASCON to the nation.
Key Note Address by Chief of the Army Staff
Army Static Switched Communication Network, ASCON, as General Bhargava has just mentioned, is a state-of-the-art communication system with multi-media capability. It tremendously enhances the Army’s capability in the field, which, as all thinking soldiers are aware, will dominate the battlefield of the 21st century. It also tremendously enhances the operational flexibility of the Army and acts as a very viable force multiplier.
Initially, the ASCON network is to be deployed along our western borders to service the formations which are operational there. In our subsequent phases, we plan to extend this network to the interior of our country as also to our formations in Central India as also in the East.
This morning is a proud day for us and we compliment and salute the vision, expertise, dedication, devotion to duty and sheer will power and skill of all who visualized, planned, and executed this prestigious project, and also who now operate and man this extremely sophisticated state of the art system. Without the effort, the joint efforts of the Indian Army’s Corps of Signals, the engineers of the ITI, as also our concerned colleagues in the Ministry of Defence and the Department of Telecommunications, this project would not have been established in a relatively short time on such a sound footing.
I once again thank the Prime Minister, who is also our Defence Minister, for being with us this morning to dedicate this little known but vitally important project, which is a major step forward in the Army’s communication system, and we look forward to his continued support in all our future endeavours. I also thank our distinguished guests who are present here this morning on this suspicious occasion.
Thank you, JAI HIND.
Introductory Remarks By the SO-in-C
On behalf of Chief of the Army Staff and all ranks of Corps of Signals, I extend an extremely warm welcome to you on the occasion of the Dedication Ceremony of ASCON to the nation. Indeed we are grateful to the Hon’ble Prime Minister who could spare his valuable time and be with us to grace the occasion.
Historically we tend to think of human development in terms of ages. There was a stone age, an iron age and so on; and today with the information revolution, we have entered an era, which could be termed as the ‘Age of the Network’. Its genesis could be traced to the advent of digital technology and the consequent marriage of computers and communications.
Today, ladies and gentlemen, we are here to dedicate to the nation an indigenous, state of the art, fully automated, completely secure and integrated theatre area network called ASCON. ASCON is definitely a milestone not only for the Corps of Signals and the Army, but also for the nation. It has upgraded our communications to new heights and is a trendsetter for defence communications of the future. It is a tribute to my predecessors, a few of whom are present in this very august audience, to have thought of communication needs of our Army in the projected battlefield scenario upto and beyond the beginning of the next century. We salute the Army Headquarters and Ministry of Defence for sanctioning the indigenous execution of a project of this magnitude and complexity, thus reposing their faith in the inherent capability of the ITI and the Corps of Signals.
I submit to this distinguished audience with immense joy and satisfaction that nation’s faith has been gloriously justified as we present today the fruit of our determined and dedicated efforts in the form of successful implementation of project ASCON – a communication network of national importance, a network which has immense potential for providing communications to our remote areas, and thus be the “Pride of our Nation”.
The project was monitored by and executed under the directions of high level Steering Committee appointed by the CCPA, and headed by the Defence Secretary. The journey from the inception to the successful execution of the project, while punctuated with moments of success, jubilation, disappointment and apprehensions, has been characteristic of a strong resolve and an unshakable determination to succeed. It is a classical example of what collective efforts of the Government, industry and the Army can produce when confronted with a challenge and ably led by people of vision who can take risks, make quick decisions and effectively motivate the team.
Our profound gratitude to the Defence Secretary, Chief of the Army Staff and Raksha Rajya Mantri for providing just the kind of leadership that I mentioned. But for their personal involvement, it would not have been possible to execute this prestigious project.
The following personnel were complimented for completion of the project:-
Ø Brig B K Kataria, VSM
Ø Brig Davinder Kumar, VSM
Ø Brig Krishra Nandan
Ø Col N L Bareja
Ø Col N Pandey
Ø Col Naresh Gupta
Ø Lt Col S G Raghunath
Ø Lt Col V S Tanwar
Ø Lt Col Subodh Kumar
Ø Lt Col S Mishra
Ø Lt Col G S Bisht
Ø Lt Col Umesh Chandra
Ø Lt Col A K Shorey
Ø Maj A A Babu
Ø Maj Rajeev Seth
Ø FO Shri T K Mahalingam
Ø EE Shri J L Goel
[ The Signalman, November 1995, page 14]
Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narasimha Rao presenting the trophy to the
Chief of the Army Staff on ASCON Dedication ceremony on 17 August 1995
Honourable Prime minister Shri Narasimha Rao Dedicating
ASCON to the Nation on 17August 1995.
“Lighting the Sacred Lamp”
Honourable Prime minister Shri Narasimha Rao
inaugurating the Ceremony
Shri Mallikarjun, Raksha Rajya Mantry receiving shield from Honourable Prime minister Shri Narasimha Rao on 17 August 1995
Air Chief Marshal SK Kaul, PVSM, MVC Chairman Chief of Staff Committee Congratulating Lt Gen RN Batra, PVSM, OBE (Retd) for Signals reaching The Pinnacle of Glory during ASCON Dedication Ceremony at VIGYAN BHAWAN, New Delhi on 17 August 1995
Left to Right : Lt Gen SC Ahuja, PVSM, AVSM (Retd), Lt Gen SG Mookerjee, PVSM, AVSM, VSM (Retd), Lt Gen RP Sapra, PVSM (Retd), Lt Gen ID Verma, PVSM (Retd), Gen S Roychowdhury, PVSM, ADC, Chief of the Army Staff, Lt Gen PD Bhargava, AVSM, SO-in-C & Senior Colonel Commandant, Lt Gen RN Patra, PVSM, OBE
(Retd), Lt Gen VC Khanna, PVSM (Retd), Lt Gen MS Sodhi, PVSM (Retd)
and Lt Gen MK Ghosh, PVSM, AVSM (Retd)
ARMY STATIC SWITCHED COMMUNICATION NETWORK (ASCON) – PHASE II
CCPA approval for the enhanced cost of ASCON Phase I as also for the concurrent implementation of ASCON Phase II was obtained during October 1986. The contract for turnkey implementation of ASCON Phase I was awarded to M/s ITI Bangalore on 14 February 1987 where as the letter of intent was issued on 23 October 1986. The network was to be fully commissioned and handed over to the Army latest by 14 February 1990. Heavy penalties were incorporated in the contract for any delay beyond the specified date. Since the issue of letter of intent the activities involving ground survey, identification of sites, and obtaining of strategic Standing Advisory Committee for Frequency Allocation (SACFA) clearance including frequency allocation and land acquisition (where ever necessary) were completed. The provisioning of allied services, viz approach road, water supply and power supply were progressed as per schedule. The sites were required to be handed over to M/s ITI before 13 October 1987, for commencing constructional activities.
The process of finalising ASCON Phase II contract commenced and was expected to be awarded by December 1987. Planning for subsequent phases for extension of ASCON to other strategic and theatre areas in the country during 8th and 9th plan period was being done in consultation with concerned Command HQs. The project implementation was being monitored by the Defence Secretary who was also the Chairman of the Steering Committee for ASCON.
Phase II of ASCON was planned to link the Phase I network to Delhi using DOT media. The contract of Phase II was awarded to M/S ITI for turnkey execution. Phase II envisaged, setting up nodes at Chandimandir, Jaipur, Delhi and Ambala and was to be made commercial by end 1991. ASCON Phase II made steady progress. The project was progressed vigorously.
The Phase I of the network covered our Western Borders extending from Rajouri (J&K) in the North to Hatma in the South. This belt is 1500 Kms long and of varied terrain. The network was two-tier consisting of 43 full-fledged switching nodes and 21 repeater stations. The project was implemented by M/s ITI Ltd as a turnkey project and handed over to Army in 1995.
The Phase II was envisaged to extend the Phase I network to the hinterland on DOT hired bulk media. Four nodes were added to the network during this phase including the node at Delhi. The Project was completed in 1997.
Phase I and Phase II consisted of interconnected communication nodes using Microwave Radio, OFC and DOT media with Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) technology. Wherever distances are beyond the Line of Sight (LOS) range, repeaters were used to extend the range. OFC was also being used between the nodes. Formation Headquarters hook on to the nearest node thereby gaining access to the entire network. Each node was connected to at least two other nodes for network survivability.
Phase I & II ASCON Node Configuration and Equipment
The major communication system and equipment in the ASCON nodes of Phase I and Phase II is given in the next paragraph.
The ASCON node consists of the following sub-components :-
(a) Media on Microwave Radio/DOT/OFC - 8 Mbps
(b) Multiplexing equipment - 120 Channels
(c) Bulk Encryption Units - 8 Mbps
(d) Voice Switch (ILT) - Catering for 64 trunks and 64 local subscribers.
(e) Data Switch-IDX 96 - Consisting of 48 Low Speed, 48 Telex and 6 High Speed Ports.
(f) Network Management System (NMS).
The features and facilities of these systems are explained in the subsequent paragraphs.
The Voice Switch is the digital exchange (Software controlled TDM-PCM switch) at a node. It provided digital trunk highways (120 to 720 channels) for networking 120 digital trunk channels in each direction in form of four 30 channel First Order Digital MUX (2.048 Mbps) output. The Voice Switch also provided dedicated path for the flow of data between the Data Switch and High Speed Data (HSD) channels through Digital Line Interface (DLI) channels. It provided 64 Local Subscribers Ports (LSP) for local subscriber extensions and 64 Drop Insert Ports (DIP) to interface with existing static or mobile ASCON Entity equipments. The architecture of the voice switch varies depending on the requirement of various nodes. Various configurations with their capacity are given below :-
Configuration LSP DIP Digital Trunks
E1 64 64 120
E2 64 64 240
E3 64 64 360
E4 64 64 480
E5 64 64 600
E6 64 64 720
(a) A multiprocessor configuration with a Hot standby for each communication processor.
(b) Full non-blocking switching using TDM-PCM technique.
(c) Unique subscriber identity over the complete network.
(d) Alternate routing over network that can cater for up to three alternate routes.
(e) It used loop dialling/calling and ringing on LSP and DIP and digital Multi Frequency Tone Register Signalling MFR2 on digital trunks.
(f) Line load control at peak hours.
(g) Dedicated path between data switches through DLI.
(h) A real-time operating system controlling all functional modules.
(j) Fully modular construction for both hardware and software.
(k) Diagnostics upto card level.
(l) Transmission of fault and traffic reports to Zonal Centre.
(m) User friendly man machine interface for test procedures and administrative commands.
Facilities provided by Voice Switch are as under :-
(a) LSP. LSP can be utilised as under :-
(i) To provide local telephone extension to subscribers located in close vicinity of the ASCON node. It catered for maximum loop resistance of 1200 ohms on loop calling/dialing.
(ii) To provide direct access to the grid in the form of trunk demand telephone to selected subscribers.
(iii) To provide hot lines.
(iv) Two of these ports could be combined to provide one D1 port. However, where conversion was required, 8 LSP had to be converted to 4 DIP.
(v) To connect an exchange on bulk media.
(b) DIP. The voice switch provides 64 DIP for providing trunk extensions to exchanges of nearby field formations (Static or Mobile). The ports could be used as analogue speech tie lines for various types of automatic exchanges such as EPABX, PAX, PABX or TIDEX Exchanges. It catered for maximum loop resistance of 1500 ohms. These DIPs could be grouped together in groups of 6, 8, 12 or 24 ports. The ports were used in particular configuration during peace and operations. During peace these ports were utilised to provide junction lines between ASCON nodes and station EPABX. The junction lines should be at least 10% of the capacity of the EPABX. During operations, D1 ports were utilised to provide connectivity of formation HQs to the node as per the channel capacity of the ADM MUX at the scale of Bde HQ-6, Div HQ Main-12, Div HQ Rear-6 and Corps HQ Main-24. In terms of formation HQs, one node can support any of the following combinations :-
(i) 3 x Bdes + 1 x Main Div.
(ii) 2 x Main Div + 1 x Bde.
(iii) 1 x Main Corps + 1 x CMA.
(c) Interfacing modules for various types of signalling in case of DIP of Voice Switch are as under :-
(i) A1 - 24V loop and dial to work through ADM MUX.
(ii) A2 - 48V loop and dial DOT systems & EPABX.
(iii) A3 - 48 E&M. e & M ports on Trunks.
(iv) A4 - 48V PABX
(d) High Speed Data(HSD). 6 point to point high speed data synchronous channels are provided at one Node. These are interconnected to the Data Switch by means of DLI. These channels are not switched by Voice Switch and are allotted as dedicated channels between data switches of the adjacent Nodes.
System Features. The local subscribers on the Voice Switch were provided with the following facilities :-
(a) Abbreviated Dialling. Each Voice Switch had provision to store 20 numbers to be used by subscribers. Abbreviated dialling code for these numbers was from 60 to 79. Under each code, a number whose length is upto 15 digits could be stored. LSP and DIP could dial the two digit abbreviated numbers. The call could be processed to the number stored against the code number dialled.
(b) Consultation. Local subscribers could consult another local subscriber while talking on a junction call or a local call. The second subscriber would be parked and put on hold till completion of the consultation.
(c) Call Transfer. Local subscriber orginating or receiving local call or a junction call could transfer the call to another local subscriber.
(d) Add On Conference. It was possible to establish a three party conference among three local subscribers or between two local subscribers and a junction subscriber.
(e) Line Load Control. Facility was provided in the Voice Switch for giving preferential service to a limited number of LSP and DIP in case of emergency. The activation and deactivation of this feature could be done from the system console. When activated, the exchange would only allow calls from the subscribers and D1 ports marked for preferential service. Line load control would bar transit calls over the digital highways of the network.
(f) Called Alert. In a local call, the release of the call was under the control of the calling subscriber. Should the called subscriber release first, the calling subscriber could alert the called party. A burst of ring of 2 sec duration would be sent to the called party and facility tone would be given to the calling subscriber. This facility could be repeated as many times as desired before the called subscriber answers or the timeout on called subscriber held condition occurs.
(g) Auto Call Back. In a local call, a subscriber on dialing another local subscriber who was busy could exercise auto call back facility to get alerted when the wanted subscriber becomes free.
(h) Group Hunting. It was possible to form groups of local subscribers for the purpose of call routing. A group could have a maximum of 16 local subscribers and four such groups were possible at Voice Switch of a node. Every group had a subscriber as the prime number. Call routed to the prime number would be diverted to a free subscriber in the group if the prime subscriber was busy. The search for a free subscriber in the group would be sequential.
(j) Hot Lines. Facility was provided for the provision of hot lines in the Voice Switch for point-to-point communication through the network. A maximum of 64 hot lines could be provided.
Data Switch (IDX-96)
The IDX-96 Data Switch provided a means of accessing the wanted device from a given device for an exchange of data. The system could serve a variety of data devices like Computers, Teleprinters, Facsimile units, Intelligence terminals and VDUs. Upto six IDX-96 Nodes could be inter-connected via DLI of Voice Switch to form a network of its own.
IDX-96 was a Packet Switch with Packet Switch Controller (PSC) as the nucleus and packet Assembler Dissembler (PADs) as fron end data handlers. It used X.25, X.28 and X.75 packet switching protocols.
(a) Telex Circuits. Total number of 48 Telex circuits could be connected working at baud rates of 50, 100, 200 and 300.
(b) Data Terminal Low Speed Data (LSD). A total of 48 LSD subscribers can be connected with data rates of 50, 100, 110, 150, 200, 300, 600, 1200, 2400, 4800, or 9600 bits per sec.
(c) Aggregate Speed. The aggregate speed of a group of 16 terminals (one PAD) should be less than 48000 bits/sec.
(d) No of Outlets. There were six bi-directional trunks operating at a speed of 64 Kbits/sec each between the Data Switch and Voice Switch.
(e) Interface Requirement. Interface requirements were as under :-
(i) Telex. 20 Mil amperes loop, double current working.
(ii) Low Speed Data Ports. Data Switch provided facility for connecting 12 numbers of RS=232C types of interface terminals and 36 number of RS 422A types of interface terminals.
Second Order MUX. Voice Switch provided First Order MUX output (4x30 ch) on each highway. After encryption, these were sent to Second Order MUX on each highway. 8 Mbps Digital Multiplex Equipment (Second Order MUX employing time division multiplexing) combined these four channels with a nominal bit rate of 2.048 Mbps to form a composite signal of 8.44 Mbps. The process was reversed on receiver side.
Digital Microwave Radio. The 2 GHz narrow band Digital Microwave System was designed to meet specific requirement of ASCON. The system operated in RF band 2.3 to 2.5 GHz and catered for 120 channels in addition to the one supervisory and two order wire channels. The system catered for one active and one protection system on each high way. The order wire facilities extended in this system were the omnibus order wire for communication within the zone and express order wire (EOW) between zonal centres.
Progress of the Project.
Most of the equipments common to Phase I were under production. Production of Secrecy Units was taken up only after inadequacies of the unit have been overcome and verified during field trials of Phase I. Prototype Optical Line Terminating Equipment was ready for test. Optical fibre route construction activities were in progress at eight sites. Procurement action for optical fibre cable was initiated. Civil works were on schedule at Chandimandir, Ambala and Jaipur. At Delhi, modification of Sena Bhawan Basement by CPWD was completed. Although all activities progressed steadily, there was some slippage in time schedule by four to six months due to delays in import of Fault Tolerant Computer System (FTS) pending clearance from Department of Energy(DOE). Tenders for Fibre Optic Cable and Optical Test Instruments were floated again to get the cable approved by Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI) and to get the latest test instruments. Phase II was likely to be commissioned by mid 1992.
Installation and testing of communication equipment was completed at all the four stations of ASCON Phase II namely Jaipur, Ambala, Chandimandir and Delhi except Voice Switch at Delhi. Nine out of the total 11 linkages were activated and were being used by field formations. Jaipur – Jodhpur and Jaipur – Bikaner could not be activated due to non availability of DOT bulk media. It was planned to activate Jaipur – Jodhpur link by 30 September 1994 and Jaipur – Bikaner by 31 December 1994. Consequent to commissioning of Delhi node, ASCON Phase II was under extensive use by Army. All linkages of Phase II were activated except for Jaipur-Bikaner link. The handing/taking over of all civil assets and telecom equipments were completed. For qualitative taking over, the testing commenced in June 1995.
The Government sanction for upgradation of 12 ASCON Phase II links hired from DoT from 2 to 8 Mbps was obtained at an annual recurring cost of Rs 12.75 Crores. Firm demand was placed on DoT for upgradation of ASCON Phase II links from 2 to 8 Mbps. 11 links were upgraded, and DoT bills pertaining to these were partially cleared. Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC) for ASCON Phase II was processed with Messrs ITI Ltd and MoD. Prices Negotiation Committee (PNC) was carried out with Messrs ITI Ltd for ASCON BEUs to be procured out of Tele Adm Grant by DG Sigs and respective Comds. The negotiated prices were as follows :-
(b) 8 Mbps BEU - Rs 5.3 Lakhs. Excl Excise Duty and Sales Tax.
(c) Hand Held Terminal - Rs 0.25 Lakhs.
The following phase II links of ASCON network were upgraded from 2 to 8 Mb to avoid congestion :-
(a) Delhi – Mamum.
(b) Delhi – Jalandhar.
(c) Delhi – Chandimandir.
(d) Delhi – Jaipur.
(e) Delhi – Hissar.
(f) Bikaner – Jaipur.
(g) Delhi – Bathinda.
(h) Delhi – Ambala.
(j) Jalandhar – Chandimandir.
(k) Jalandhar – Ambala.
(l) Chandimandir – Ambala.
(m) Jaipur – Jodhpur.
Communication breakthrough was achieved when ASCON connectivity was successfully extended to remotely located Bhuj station. 24 channel communication media employing a chain of tropo and RR links and spanning a distance of over 625 kms was successfully established between Jalipa ASCON node and Bhuj during the months of Jun – August 1995. This provided the Bhuj sector a reliable and secure media access to the ASCON network. ASCON connectivity was successfully extended to Bhopal on 20 Jun 97 from Delhi on 2 MB DOT hired media. The first Optical Fibre ASCON highway was commissioned and formally inaugurated by the SO-in-C on 16 June 1998.
War Wastage Reserve (WWR) for ASCON equipment was projected to the Govt and was approved by the Steering Committee for ASCON. A board of officers was constituted to identity and recommend scales of equipment to be procured under WWR. The board proceedings was finalised. The existing ASCON network had not catered for any War Wastage Res of equipment. Case for WWR for ASCON equipment was projected to the MoD, and was approved by the Steering Committee for ASCON. A board of officers identified and recommended the scale of equipment. After validation by MO Directorate, the proposal was forwarded to MoD for sanction. Contract for painting of 64 ASCON towers was concluded on 15 September 1998. The work was completed in all respect on 30 December 1998.
Army Static Switched Communication Network (ASCON) – Phase III
The CCPA paper on ASCON projects approved future growth of ASCON network by including more nodes for extension of the network, to provide network redundancy using different media, up conversion of repeaters to node for operational requirements as also to obtain greater flexibility. There was also provision to upgrade the network technology with the latest state-of-the-art technology for providing more services to the users. Accordingly, ASCON Phase III was planned to extend existing ASCON to Kashmir Valley and Ladakh, to cover the voids in Western and Southern commands and to cover important stations in the North East and in the hinterland. The technologies of Phase I and Phase II were proving inadequate in terms of quantity and feature richness which existing technology at that stage could offer. Converged technologies like ATM that offered higher multiplexing facility supporting Synchronous Digital Hierarchy at high switching rates were being introduced.
The drawbacks of TDM technology used in ASCON Phase I and II were :-
(a) Technology obsolescence.
(b) Fixed bandwidth whether in use or not.
(c) Inflexible and not scalable in terms of Bandwidth.
(d) High speed data channels not on standard protocol and hence not exploited.
Signalling scheme used by M/s ITI Ltd within their own ILT switches was not standardised hence did not allow smooth integration with other switches. It envisaged a complete technological upgrade of existing Time Division Multiplexing(TDM) technology which was being used in ASCON switches to state of the art ATM technology. The planned ASCON Network would provide a network capable of transporting large sharable bandwidth seamlessly across the network. It was to provide high bandwidth media connectivity using optical fibre, sub rate STM radio and satellite overlay network. It would provide a single network for conveyance of multiservice having a high backbone carrier capacity.
Accordingly, ASCON Phase III was planned to overcome these drawbacks of technology in Phase I and Phase II. It envisaged a complete technological upgradation of existing TDM technology. The future ASCON network was planned to provide a network capable of transporting large sharable bandwidth seamlessly across the network. It should provide high bandwidth media connectivity using optical fibre, sub-rate STM radio and satellite overlay network. It would provide a single network for conveyance of multiservices having backbone carrier capacity of 155 Mbps on STM 1 links, 622 Mbps on STM 4 links, 34 Mbps on Microwave links and 8 Mbps on existing Microwave and BSNL links (pertaining to Phase I and II). ASCON Phase II was to be state-of-the-art end to end digital fully secure network employing varied media, supporting value added services including video conferencing (studio, desktop) and bandwidth on demand. It was to employ a wide spectrum of frequencies and would be EMI/EMC protected. While the network as a whole should have reliability and availability better than 99.9 percent, each link was to have reliability and availability better than 99.99 percent with BER better than 10-7.
Extension of ASCON to Other Sectors in the Country
Approval in principle was given in October 1987 for extension of ASCON to rest of the country. Further, in consonance with the directions given by the then RRM (A) to formulate ASCON Extension Plan (Phase III), a nationwide survey was conducted under a separate consultancy contract awarded to M/s Bharat Electronics Ltd. The ground survey for extension of ASCON in different Commands was conducted by M/s BEL Ghaziabad. The initial survey was carried out. The DOT had committed to provide most of the digital media that was required for extension of ASCON in the hinterland. Final reports of the nation wide survey for extension plans of ASCON were submitted by M/s BEL in March 1990. Wargames for finalising ASCON architecture were held. Due to resource crunch during 8th Army Plan, it was planned to extend ASCON only to HQ 15 Corps and to cover some voids in 16 Corps Zone. CCPA approval for implementation of these plans was proposed to be sought by end 91 after budgetary allocation was known.
A broad outline plan for ASCON Phase III was then formulated by the Army. This plan was, however, modified later and optimised to evolve a most time and cost effective solution in the form of ‘Integrated ASCON Extension and Satellite Communication Plan’ at a much reduced total capital outlay.
ASCON extension plan was presented to COAS during 45th CSOs/Comdts conference held at 2 STC, Goa on 23 March 1992. Subsequently, a presentation on ASCON Phase III was made to DCOAS (T&C) on 07 April 1992. Thereafter, the plans were approved by the VCOAS who directed that action to obtain approval of CCPA for ASCON Phase III be initiated. The ASCON Phase III plan was formally presented at the Steering Committee Meeting on Project ASCON held at MoD on 31 May 1993 and approval in principle was accorded for the same. It had a capital outlay of approx Rs. 252 crores. The CCPA paper was prepared and processed for Government approval.
The key terms of reference, which clearly highlighted its architecture, considered for evolving ASCON extension plan Phase III, are as under :-
(a) Extension plan to build up ASCON as a sub-continental backbone network as envisaged in the CCPA approval of ASCON Phase I and Phase II.
(b) Due consideration be given for enhancement of physical and electronic survivability of the network.
(c) An integrated approach to be adopted, taking into consideration the other on going modernisation schemes viz AAKASH, AREN and so on to avoid duplication and ensure optimum utilisation of resources.
(d) Enhanced survivability against Electronic Warfare (EW) by proliferating different frequency bands and adopting multi-media approach.
(e) The plan to lend itself for full integration with the national network when required. However, dependence on DOT hired media be gradually reduced during peace time so as to reduce excessive recurring expenditure on hiring on bulk digital media from DOT as also to ensure availability of facilities during strikes by DOT personnel and adverse internal security situation.
(f) At least all Command and Corps Headquarters, and some important Divisional Headquarters be covered during the 8th Plan period.
(g) Manpower, requirement to be met within existing resources without any additional financial commitment on this account.
(h) Terrestrial extension for redundancy/survivability for ASCON Phase III as also extension to hinterland stations and selected Formation Headquarters to be included in the 9th Plan.
(j) Only provision technologies to be incorporated to cut down the implementation time and to avoid time and cost overruns. At the same time, the plan must have the requisite flexibility to absorb new technologies and provide ISDN type of services with minimal changes.
(k) Provision of enhanced digital connectivity at seven stations of ASCON Phase I network viz, Udhampur, Nagrota, Jammu, Pathankot (Mamun), Jalandhar, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer to support large capacity EPABXs.
(l) Establishment of Zonal Control Centre (ZCC) at Chandimandir.
The plans for extension of ASCON to other areas were approved by the VCOAS. The aim was that the most of the preliminary activities viz land acquisition, SACFA clearance for frequency and tower heights, provision of allied services and the like were completed during the current plan period so that no time is lost for these activities and actual implementation commences right in the beginning of next plan period.
ASCON Phase III was included in the recast 8th Plan projections. Draft note for the approval of the Cabinet for ASCON Phase III at an estimated cost of Rs 302.30 Crores (excluding excise duty) was under processing with MoD. The following stations were connected on ASCON through DOT hired 2 MB digital Bulk media :-
(a) Delhi – Calcutta.
(b) Delhi – Pune.
(c) Delhi – Lucknow.
(d) Delhi – Mathura.
In addition to above, the 2 MB media was sanctioned for the following stations :-
(a) Delhi - Udhampur.
(b) Delhi - Shillong.
(c) Udhampur - Srinagar.
Steering Committee meeting was held on 22 January 1998 in which stock of progress on ASCON Phase I and II was taken and implementation modalities of ASCON Phase III were discussed. The Chairman Steering Committee, the Defence Secretary, gave a number of rulings which facilitated the clearing of various bottlenecks in project implementation. The topology of ASCON Phase III was also ratified in the meeting. A number of Tech Implementation Group (TIG) meetings under the Chairmanship of ADG (Tels) were held. Brainstorming sessions were held on switch and satellite technology. Presentations from various vendors were organised to explore the available technology. Command representatives also attended the TIG meeting. The draft Operational Requirement (OR) was fwd to CSOs Command for their comments, which were received and discussed for suitably incorporating in the Operational Requirement. Request for Proposal (RFP) for ASCON Phase III was vetted by MoD and was scrutinised by MoD (Finance).
Tender Process. The Statement of Case for manpower of ASCON Phase III was taken up. Consequently, on the directions of SO-in-C a presentation was given by Dir AWG to SO-in-C and other Seniors officers of DG Signals. Consequent to the approval of ASCON Phase III, which is a complex multiple media project covering almost the entire subcontinent, a case was taken up to enhance the auth of AWG. The same was approved by the SO-in-C. The Request for Proposal (RFP) with Operational Requirement (OR) was issued to selected vendors by MoD on 09 December 1998. Technical and commercial bids were received on 06 February 1999. The Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC), which was constituted by the Steering Committee of ASCON, carried out the technical evaluation of the proposals forwarded by the vendors. The TEC report was approved by the MoD, and subsequently, the commercial bid was opened in the MoD on 10 June 1999.
Actions Taken Before Implementation Stage.
ASCON Phase III was planned to extend existing ASCON into Kashmir Valley, Ladakh and to the North East. It envisaged a complete technological upgrade of existing TDM Technology being used in ASCON switches to state-of-the-art Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) technology. The ASCON was made the backbone network for the Army which provided capability of transporting large shareable bandwidth ‘seamlessly’ across the network. It had high bandwidth connectivity with the media being optical fibre, subrate STM radio and also satellite for bulk media connectivity. The PNC for ASCON Phase III was concluded on 24 March 2000. The Project was awarded to M/s ITI Ltd at a cost of Rs 355 Crores as a turnkey project to be completed within 48 months from the date of issue of Letter of Intent (LOI). The LOI was given to the vendor by MoD on 31 March 2000 with an advance of Rupees 71 Crores. The following actions were taken :-
(a) Survey was carried out in Northern Command from 12 to 19 April 2000 and in Eastern Command from 08 to 14 May 2000.
(b) Technical discussion with M/s ITI Ltd on detailed network design concerning switches, NMS and satellite network overlay were held.
(c) Test bed was set up for proving the network solution as proposed by M/s ITI Ltd in their technical offer before the equipment was sent to their destined locations.
(d) Monthly coordinating meetings were held between M/s ITI Ltd and AWG to review progress of the project. These were conducted regularly.
(e) M/s ITI Ltd set up a Project Management Office in AWG premises for smooth implementation of the ASCON Phase III project.
Satellite forms an integral part of ASCON Phase III providing the third dimension of connectivity. The satellite terminals were used in static role with both pre assigned and demand assigned configuration. The satellite network was established in a mesh configuration. The network was designed to work on transponders off INSAT satellites. There was two types of satellite linkages as follows :-
(a) Bulk connectivity.
(b) Channel based connectivity.
Permanently assigned Bulk Media connectivity of 2 Mbps (E1 connectivity) was provided between five selected sites called principal stations. The 2 Mbps pipe provided satellite overlay between ASCON switches at these locations. Interfaces were on G.703 standard and work in conjunction with an exclusive Bulk Encryption Unit of 2 Mbps capacity which was provided separately as part of secrecy equipment. The project had started rolling.
Methodology. The following methodology for extending secure, automated and real time communications was adopted :-
(a) Long distance linkages were planned over two layered fully secure satellite system (SATCOM) comprising of both ‘On Demand’ communication facility based on Digital Single Channel Per Carrier (SCPC) system and high capacity linkages to stations having higher density of traffic. These facilities were to be supported on INSAT-2 series of satellites by establishing a hub station at Delhi. The hub station would also house the Network Control Facility.
(b) Short haul linkages were planned on secure terrestrial system using 7/8 GHz Digital Microwave Radio for single and double hop links. Only two medium range terrestrial linkages were planned on Digital Media hired from DOT; primarily to effect economy; both in capital outlay and manpower.
(c) Full integration between SATCOM and terrestrial systems as also with ASCON Phases I and II, AREN, AMSS and DOT had been catered for to ensure availability of all telematics services to the users. To ensure this, three Gateways were planned to be established at Delhi, Srinagar and Jodhpur.
(d) Some secure UHF links (30 to 60 channels capacity) were planned to give extensions to some stations from the neighbouring nodes to ensure optimum utilisation of the network facilities.
(e) All efforts were made to locate the ASCON stations within the cantonments/formation headquarter premises, to reduce costs and provide greater physical security.
In addition to above, the following addtions for improved network architecture were considered :-
(a) A Central Zonal Control Centre (CZC) to be established at Delhi and a Zonal Control Centre (ZCC) at Chandimandir.
(b) The communication architecture took into account enhanced communication requirements based on a threat perspective as also during training periods/formation exercises.
(c) Requisition of eight Mobile Nodes alongwith eight Repeater Centres (Mobile version) were also proposed to be inducted to replace casualty nodes and for extension of ranges.
Features of ASCON Phase III.
Salient features of ASCON Phase III were as follows :-
(a) Used ATM technology for core switching.
(b) Maximum use of OFC as media to provide large capacity highways between ATM switches. (The back bone tier of ASCON was completely on OFC barring few links).
(c) Broadband network speed at STM-1 (155 Mbps) and STM-4 (622 Mbps) level.
(d) Satellite overlay on SCPC DAMA and 2 Mbps bulk media.
(e) Mobile ASCON Node.
(f) Underground Nodes at border areas.
The network should be reconfigurable through NMS for various capacities, services and interfaces. It would employ commercial off-the-shelf equipment, which would operate under controlled environment. Non-conventional energy sources like solar power should be employed at remote places.
The network would be built up around an integrated switch and the switches would be interconnected using diverse media like Microwave, OFC, Satellite and UHF Radio with varying bandwidth (34/8/2 Mbps in case of PDH (Ple – synchronous Digital Hierarchy) and 155 Mbps/622 Mbps in case SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy).
Scope of Work
The scope of work for ASCON Phase III included the following :-
(a) New Nodes - 11
(b) Node + Satellite stations - 12
(c) Upgradation of existing Repeater to Nodes - 05
(d) Upgradation of existing Nodes with ATM - 35
(e) OFC - 2200 Kms
(f) UHF Extns - 7
(g) Satellite Stations - 7
(h) Mobile Nodes - 8 detachments
The network would consist of following communication sub-systems :-
(a) Integrated switch consisting of ISDN and ATM switches.
(b) Microwave Radio.
(e) Secrecy with inbuilt SDH functionality.
The integrated trunk cum local switch consisted of an ATM Switch for the trunk switching and an ISDN Switch for the local switching. It provided the following facilities:-
(a) Distributive Switching Architecture. The system displayed processing intelligence and switching capability throughout the network, assuring optimal performance as the network expands, with no single point of failure.
(b) It was capable of expansion to meet user requirements through addition of capacity and functionality as and when required. It employed advanced and efficient algorithm to avoid congestion proactively without sacrificing network efficiency.
(c) Exhibited adjustable rate of data flow as needed at each network hop to avoid queuing delays and data discards.
(d) Supported ITU-TSS ATM Adaptation Layer (AAL) standards for error free adaptation of non-ATM traffic like Frame Relay, Constant Bit Rate (CBR) etc.
(e) Supported CBR circuit emulation switching capability over ATM for E1 circuits. In addition Unspecified Bit Rate (UBR) and Variable Bit Rate (VBR) were supported.
(e) Ports were software defined, compatible with supported protocols and speed. ATM switch supported Permanent Virtual Circuit (PVC) and Switched Virtual Circuit (SVC) connections with automatic inter-node routing and connection management.
(f) Supported point to point and point to multi point connection (multicast).
(g) Display dynamic rerouting around failed trunks, allowing sub-second restoration of traffic flow to minimize service disruption and increased network availability.
(j) Complete component redundancy including option for ATM switching matrix, line cards and power supply to assure continuous, fault tolerant operation was incorporated.
(k) NMS. It was an industry standard, open system SNMP including IP support for simplified and streamlined management functionality. It supported all traditional management functions (configuration, accounting performance, security and fault management), node utilization control and centralized remote debugging functions.
(l) The following standards were supported :-
(i) ATM. SDH/Fractional SDH, E3, E1.
(ii) Eq/PRI/CBR. 2 Mbps (Multiples also possible).
(iii) Frame Relay. F.24, V.35/36/37, X.21/24.
(iv) LAN. STP, UTP, AUI.
(m) Protocols Supported. ATM, Frame Relay, Transparent HDSL/(X.25,SNA), Ethernet 802.3 Token Ring 802.5.
(n) ATM Throughout. 2 Gbps/5Gbps/10 Gbps.
(o) Signalling. It had the following features :-
(aa) ATM – UNI V3.0, 3.1, 4.0, PNNI 1.0, B-ISUP, IISP V.1.0
(ab) ISDN – SS # 7
(aa) Trunk – MFR2, Loop, E&M
(ab) Local – DTMF, Decadic
(p) Video Transmission. Studio quality and desktop with MPEG-2 and JPEG standards was possible amongst a maximum of eight locations.
Hardware Features. The hardware features were :-
(a) Modular design.
(b) Hot standby.
(c) Expandable by adding modules.
Graceful degradation and fail safe operation. At least 30% of user facilities was always available over the network.
Software Features. The following software features were available :-
(a) User friendly MMI.
(b) Optimal call routing (Preferably hybrid routing).
(c) Digit handling capacity, min 15 digits.
(d) Fault diagnosis package.
(e) Periodic call statistics.
(f) Distributive processing.
(g) Group hunting for speech or data.
(h) Call duration control.
Digital Microwave Equipment
Microwave equipment operating in hot standby mode was provided with frequency setting accuracy and stability as per CCIR recommendations. Actual frequencies allocation was referred to Wireless Planning Committee(WPC) for approval. The equipment provided the following features :-
(a) STM 1/34 Mbps radio link.
(b) Space Diversity Receivers for improving link reliability, where applicable.
(c) The transceiver was optimally filtered to Nyquist criterion to minimize Inter Symbol Interference.
(d) Provided one secure order wire of 64 Kbps.
(e) The equipment could operate on digital modulation scheme.
(f) The equipment had built in test equipment (BITE) to indicate the location and nature of fault.
(g) Minimum receiver threshold to ensure overall network BER better than 1x10-6 for the desired grade of communications for end-to-end utilization of the network.
(h) High gain antenna system (preferably mesh type) with dehydrator to achieve maximum efficiency.
(j) Interface with multiplexing equipment using HDB-3 format as per CCITT specification G.703.
Optical Fiber Cable
The Optical Fiber links were used as bulk media between different stations. The cable was 24/12 fiber monomode, unarmoured cable in HDPE pipe with lowest coefficient of friction and preferably with silicon lining with proper ducting terminated at both ends with capability of supporting SDH system upto STM-16. The cable was of central tube variety. A combination of cable jet/manual pulling method was used to blow/pull the cable in the HDPE. Detailed specifications of cable (as per G. 652) are given below :-
(a) Mode field diameter (1550 nm) - 1.5+ 1.0 micron
(b) Design - Matched cladding
(c) Refractive Index Profile - Step
(d) Cut of wavelength - < 1250 nm
(e) Attenuation - <0.22 dB/km (1550 nm)
< 0.3 db/km (1330 nm)
(f) Chromatic Dispersion - <18ps/(nmkm) (1550 nm)
<3.5ps/(nmkm) (1310 nm)
(g) Bending radius - better than 14D
(h) Temperature stability - -30 to 700C.
(j) Tensile strength - greater than 2500 N
(k) The laying of the cable was as per TEC specifications.
(l) The BDPE pipe used was of 40 mm outer diameter with minimum wall thickness of 3.5mm as per following specifications :-
(i) Co-efficient of friction <0.1.
(ii) Blowing pressure utp 10 Bar.
(iii) Environmental Stress - As per ATMs D – Crack Resistance 1693
(iv) Crush Resistance Test - As per TEC Spec No G/CDS-01/01 Dec
1994 and amendment No. 1.
(v) Internal Pressure Creep Rupture Test – 48 hrs at 800C as per IS 4984- 1995
(vi) Impact Resistance Test - No crack or split as per IS-12295 (Part-9)- 1986
(vii) Reversion Test - Less than 3% as per IS : 4984-1995.
(viii) LASER source working at 1550 nm wavelength.
(ix) It had capacity of STM-4 or STM-1 with provision to drop 2MB streams compatible with E1 standards.
Satellite Communication forms an integral part of ASCON Phase III providing the third dimension of connectivity. The satellite terminals were used in static role with both pre assigned and demand assigned configuration. Systems used digital technology capable of working in C/extended C band off INSAT series of satellites. The satellite network was established in a mesh configuration. The network was designed to work on transponders off INSAT satellites. There were two types of satellite linkages as follows :-
(a) Bulk connectivity.
(b) Channel based connectivity.
Bulk Media Connectivity. Permanently assigned Bulk Media connectivity of 2 Mbps (E1 connectivity) was provided between five selected sites called principal stations. The 2 Mbps pipe provides satellite overlay between ASCON switches at these locations. Interfaces were on G.703 standard and work in conjunction with an exclusive Bulk Encryption Unit of 2 Mbps capacity which was provided separately as part of secrecy equipment.
Channel Based Connectivity. Voice and data connectivity between all the stations was provided in mesh configuration.
(a) Voice. The stations use SCPC – DAMA configuration. 20% of DAMA channels of each station was to be permanently assigned to other specific stations through software command from NMS.
(i) Coding - 16 Kbps or less.
(ii) Quality - MOS of 4.0 or better.
(iii) DAMA Factor - 0.7
(iv) Single hop speech between any two stations.
(v) Ability to operate G3/G4 fax.
(vi) Signalling support SS # 7.
(b) Data. Data connectivity was provided using TDM-TDMA technology. The data channels were assigned permanently and was not to exceed a maximum of two hops between two users. Combination of data channels should be possible to provide video transmission and other ISDN features.
Antenna System. The radiation pattern of antenna conforms to CCIR recommendation 580. The antenna system should be operational under the following climatic conditions :-
(a) Worst case of snowfall - 60 cm
(b) Maximum amount of snowfall/day - 6 m/day
(c) Maximum rainfall - 40 mm
(d) Wind Speed - 100 Knots/hour (1 knot=1.9 km)
(e) Suitable deicing/dewatering arrangements have been incorporated.
The entire network was secured with the help of media secrecy equipment of highest security grading. The secrecy was provided both at bulk media levels of STM 4, STM 1, E3, E2 and E1 levels and individual channel level of 64 Kbps and 16 Kbps for data and voice and satellite media. All radio equipment would have secure order wire.
The equipment catered for the requirement of end-to-end BER of better than 10-6 for the network as a whole to enable satisfactory working of terminal equipment requiring this BER standard. There was no degradation in communications with the insertion of secrecy equipment.
Network Management System
The ASCON Network required an elaborate Network Management System (NMS) to perform the functions of overall management of the network and to monitor the health of the system and its various components. All equipments in the network were under the ambit of Umbrella NMS developed by M/s ITI except the following where the native NMS of the equipment was used :-
(a) ATM Sub-system.
(b) ISDN sub-system.
Four ASCON Sub Groups were proposed to be raised, one each at Udhampur, Jalandhar, Bhatinda and Jodhpur. Posting orders for officers, JCOs ( Fof S) and NCOs/OR, who have been trained on ASCON equipment, were issued and they were trained on ASCON equipment. These personnel were positioned in existing Signal units which were in the vicinity of proposed sub groups. They were employed for installation of ASCON equipment alongwith ITI teams. They were re-posted to ASCON Sub Groups as soon as they were raised.
Raising of ASCON unit and HQ for manning, maintaining and management of ASCON Phase I and II of the network was processed. Raising orders for ASCON establishments were issued in November 1989 and ASCON units were functional in 10, 11, 12 and 16 Corps with the personnel specially trained at M/s ITI forming the nucleus. In addition to the four ASCON Sub Groups raised at Jodhpur, Bhatinda, Jalandhar and Nagrota, 57 Signal Group and HQ Army Network Communications were raised at Chandimandir and Delhi respectively.
Network Management Grant (NMG) for Rs 40 lakhs per annum was sanctioned by the Govt. This grant was to be used for carying out the maintenance of ASCON which, was not covered under Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC) which had been entered into with Messrs ITI Ltd. The grant would be spent under the arrangement of Commander HQ ANC, and would be suballotted to ASCON Sub Groups proportionately. The ASCON Mobile Node was under development with Messrs Precision Electronics Ltd (PEL). Two Add Drop MUXs were procured as trial equipment and were installed between Delhi and Udhampur for deriving an overlay network between Delhi and Udhampur EPABXs, by passing ASCON nodes. The trials were successful and the circuits worked satisfactorily since 29 August 1998.
The officers and Junior Commissioned Officers who had been earmarked for ASCON units, had undergone a three months training on the ASCON equipment at ITI Bangalore and other factories. Training of technician NCOs was conducted at ITI Bangalore. Selected officers (GD as well SL (TOT)), JCO (F of S), TER, TES and EFS had undergone specialised training at manufacturers’ premises to engineer, maintain and manage the network. A Computer Based Training (CBT) Package based on ‘Pluto’ language was developed by MCTE as part of SOPGE Project sponsored by AWG. This package was capable of running on a PC XT/AT. A training package based on Turbo Pascal was under development at AWG.
ASCON Training School at HQ ANC started functioning. Following cadres were conducted :-
(a) ASCON Basic course for - 27 Apr 91 to 11 May 91
Instructors of STC
(b) ASCON course on communication - 24 Jun 91 to 03 Aug 91
Equipment (For ASCON Units/Sub Units
Not trained by M/s ITI).
Mobile ASCON Node
The Mobile ASCON Node was envisaged to provide reduced functionality of communication any ASCON node that could become a casually during war and thereby restore emergency communications to nearby field formations. It was also to be used to extend ASCON connectivity upto 30 Kms if situation so demanded. The mobile node was conceived to be based on four vehicles, two for equipment, one for antenna and one for power. The antenna vehicle was to have a hydraulic antenna mast which could be erected on the vehicle platform. The mobile node was to be capable of being deployed at a suitable location and hooked to the nearest existing ASCON node on a 8 MB UHF radio link. All the elements of the Mobile ASCON Node could be deployed at a short notice.
The Mobile ASCON Node was developed by M/s Precision Electronics Ltd, NOIDA. The project was completed. A demonstration was organised to show the capabilities of Mobile ASCON Node to SO-in-C on 02 June 2000. Transmission of Wide Area Network(WAN) and Video traffic along with existing voice was demonstrated using the Mobile ASCON Node. Field trials of the Mobile Node was organised.
Progress of Various Projects
OFC Routes. Twelve OFC routes were laid, as an upgrade to ASCON Phase I, in Zones 1 to 4. These were completed in August 2000 and Acceptance Inspection Test Procedure (AITP) was completed in Jan 2001. These linked some important Phase I nodes and provided additional laddering. Seven more OFC routes were similarly planed for Zone 5. Price Negotiations Committee (PNC) for these seven routes was completed in May 2001.
Overlay Network. An additional overlay network was created on existing ASCON network, in September 2000, to all the Corps Headquarters, except Headquarters 14 Corps. This enabled extension of Army Intranet to all the Corps Headquarters.
Direct Dialing. Direct dialing facility from Army HQ EPABX to Command EPABXs had been enhanced to 30 channels in Feb 2001. Direct dialing facility was engineered to the Corps EPABXs, except HQ 14 Corps EPABX, from Army HQ EPABX in Feb 2001.
Army Strategic Operational Information Dissemination System (ASTROIDS). The earlier ‘Modernisation of Ops Rooms’ Project was upgraded and renamed ASTROIDS. High-speed Data (HSD) channels were to be provided on ASCON backbone. Difficulties in engineering the HSDs were overcome by using Bandwidth Manager (Mainstreet 3600 +) to derive these channels on ASCON media. Connectivity was provided to three Commands, four Corps, two alternate locations and laterally amongst neighbouring Commands and Corps.
Rearward Connectivity. ASCON connectivity was provided to Mhow EPABX ex Delhi Node in May 2001 and to Jabalpur EPABX ex Hissar Node in June 2001, on DOT hired 2 MB Media. This connectivity would subsequently be reconfigured to provide direct dialing also to these two EPABXs from Army HQ EPABX.
Mobile ASCON Node. The prototype of Mob ASCON Node (based on Kolos Tatra) was subject to field trials in December 2000. It performed satisfactorily. Some improvements were suggested. These were incorporated in the eight Mob ASCON Nodes procured in ASCON Ph 3.
Upgradation of ASCON Ph 1 Bulk Encryption Units (BEUs). A team of Indian Telephone Industries Limited, commonly known as ITI Limited (ITI) conducted trials in March 2001. Cards and EPROMs needed for upgradation were received in May 2001 from ITI. 572 Sub Group, ESG and ITI conducted confirmatory trials jointly.
Command and Control
Command and control implies both authority and responsibility pertaining to a formation, unit/sub and detachment as regards its operational, technical and administrative functions. The same is equally applicable to ASCON assets; be it manpower, equipment, network availability or user and terminal facilities. All these facets have a direct bearing with consequential effect on efficient functioning, as also resource management and utilisation of the ASCON architecture.
However, as regards control of ASCON infrastructure and on ground utilisation of assets, there were conflicting requirements, demand and obligations; different for network engineering and maintenance and totally different for facilities extension, utilisation and management with particular reference to its dynamic responsiveness towards operational and administrative requirements of the formation/installations being supported.
The organization tree of ASCON is given below :
ORGANISATION TREE : ASCON
Ministry of Defence
ASCON Groups/ Sub Groups
Nagrota - 591 Sub Group
- 57 Signal Group
Jodhpur - 551 Sub Group
Delhi - 500 (I) Signal Company
Role of ASCON Working Group (AWG). The project was conceptualized in the mid eighties. ASCON Working Group is the Project Management Organisation for planning and implement of projects ASCON as also to carry out all the activities related to projects ASCON including upgradation and replacement of obsolete equipment in existing network, hiring of bulk media, managing financial expenditure (both revenue and capital) related to ASCON. ASCON Working Group was raised on 15 November 1985 as a Project Management Organisation, to steer the project right from conceptualization to the implement stage and thereafter carry out post contractual obligations. AWG, as the Project Management Organisation for ASCON, had been performing the staff functions of Directorate General of Signals on ASCON matters. The aim of establishing the network was to establish a high capacity, reliable, flexible and secure backbone communication network down to brigade and important military stations of Indian Army. A turnkey approach was therefore, adopted for implementation of project ASCON in Phases based on availability of funds and technical upgrades. ASCON Phase I, II and III have been successfully implemented.
Responsibilities of ASCON Working Groups are given below :-
(a) Planning and implementation of all ASCON related projects.
(b) Progress residual contractual obligations of ASCON Phase I and II.
(c) Progress miscellaneous projects viz, mobile node and solar power for isolated nodes.
(d) Conclude Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC) for various phases of ASCON and ASCON related projects with the vendors.
(e) Policy matters on employment of ASCON in consultation with DGMO and DG Signals.
(f) Operational and technical control of mobile nodes till implementation.
(g) All development projects which are required to be progressed through Ministry of Defence (MoD)
(h) Specify network and interface protocols of ASCON.
(i) Management/monitoring of funds related to ASCON from capital/revenue budget of the Army.
(j) Correspondence/liaison with MoD/Army Headquarters/DGIS/CIDSS/PMO AREN for integration with ASCON.
(k) Liaison with BSNL for hiring of bulk media and planing of OFC projects.
(l) Formulation of policy on repair, maintenance and replacement of ASCON equipments.
(m) Formulation of policy on sharing of ASCON resources.
(n) Maintenance of all documents related to ASCON projects.
(o) Origanise meeting of Steering Committee on ASCON.
HQ Army Network Communication (ANC). HQ ANC was designed to carry out certain command and staff functions. These included technical control, training and inspection of ASCON establishments as well as engineering, repairs, maintenance and network management. However, some issues pertaining to operational control also devolve on ANC due to the network nature of the ASCON.
Responsibilities of ANC are given below :-
(a) Efficient functioning and optimal utilisation of ASCON and technical control of ASCON Phases
(b) Staff functions of Directorate General of Signals for ASCON phases including policy matters and employment of ASCON resources.
(c) Improvements in ASCON phases network viz, development of software for effective management, updation of media, switches and so on.
(d) Technical control of all ASCON Groups/Sub Groups.
(e) Technical and operational control of 500 (Independent) Signal Company.
(f) Technical training of all ASCON units.
(g) Repair and maintenance of all types of ASCON equipment, including monitoring of ANC and first level user maintenance. It deals directly with ITI, Bangalore.
(h) Operational and technical control of mobile nodes on implementation.
(j) ASCON AREN integration.
Role of ITI Limited
The country’s premier telecom company, ITI Ltd, successfully accomplished the task of developing Digital Voice and Data Integrated Communication System ASCON for defence, thus helping the Indian Army modernise its communication infrastructure.
The job was executed by ITI Ltd as a total turnkey project using indigenous technology. The system was designed indigenously and implemented in record time. The project involved site survey, system engineering, construction of buildings and towers, network management, design and development, supply, installation and commissioning of equipment over vast areas and varying terrain besides training of personnel. Each and every item of design was tailor made to the specific requirements of the Armed Forces. The entire system ran through vast deserts of Rajasthan, fertile lands of Punjab and steep hills and valleys of the northern frontier. A dedicated team comprising of more than 200 ITI engineers toiled on this project and during the course of its execution, two of them lost their lives in an unfortunate accident in Rajasthan.
With the commissioning of this system, ITI’s strength in telecommunications was well proved. The company offered a wide range of products and services which included switching transmission, network systems, control systems, microelectronics and computers, subscriber and equipments, data products, V-SAT and services.
The conventional hierarchical communication systems in existence up to late eighties suffered from numerous drawbacks. The salient ones being lack of flexibility, low capacity, low speed and manpower intensive being operator assisted. ASCON was conceived in early eighties as a strategic and theatre area communication network ultimately to form a sub continental network of the Army. The project was planned to be implemented in phases and to be upgraded periodically with the state-of-the-art commercially available equipment.
ASCON Phase I. This project was implementation by M/s ITI Limited as a turnkey project at a cost of Rs 101.99 Cr and the contract was signed on 14 February 1987. The Phase I network covered our Western border extending from Rajouri (J&K) in the North to Barmer (Rajasthan) in the South. This belt covered 1500 kilometers long and of varied terrain. The network was a two-tier network consisting of 43 full-fledged communication nodes and 21 repeater stations. The media connectivity between the communication nodes was on Army owned microwave radio. A total of 23 radio links were engineered using 2 GHz narrow band digital microwave radio to provide 8 Mbps links. The project was formally handed over to the Army in August 1995.
ASCON Phase II. After successful implementation of ASCON Phase-I, the Phase-II of the project, which envisaged extension of the network to the hinterland, was undertaken. Since DoT infrastructure was available for this purpose, this connectivity was planned on DoT hired bulk media primarily based on OFC. To maintain the grid/mesh architecture, a total of four additional nodes including one at Delhi were planned. The Phase of the project gave rearward integration of the network to Headquarters Western Command at Chandimandir and Army Headquarters at Delhi. The project was contracted to M/s ITI Ltd at a cost of Rs. 18.15 crores and the four nodes were fully established and commissioned in November 1997.
ASCON Phase III. As is evident ASCON Phase I and Phase II addressed only the Western borders, therefore the ASCON Phase III was planned to further extend the backbone connectivity to the Eastern Command, Northern Command (14 and 15 Corps Zone) and important location in Central Command. A need to embrace latest switching technology was felt and hence ASCON Phase III was based on ATM switching (prevailing state of art technology). Certain other improvements were laying of about 3700 kms of OFC, connecting ASCON nodes in Western, Southern and South Western Command, introducing DAMA based ASCON satellite nodes at 22 stations, establish 34 Mbps Microwave (MW) radio as standby communication as well as to extended the reach of network where OFC could not be laid especially in Eastern and Northern Command. For the first time concept of mobile ASCON nodes was introduced wherein eight mobile nodes based on 8 x 8 HMV(Tatra) were procured with capability to provide ASCON communication on Microwave (MW) media. ASCON Phase II was contracted to M/s ITI Ltd at a cost of Rs. 272.21 crores and was commissioned in December 2007.
ASCON was a shining example of Made in India project much ahead of its time. It showed how the Government, Armed Forces, industry, Defence Public Sector Undertaking, Government agencies (Department of Telecommunications) could get together to design completely indigenous, sophisticated, State of art Communications network and implement the project across varied terrains in most inhospitable areas in record time.
Project ASCON continues to expand providing much needed communication support to the remotest areas of the country. This was made possible by the vision and conceptualization of the project by some of the pioneers of Corps of Signals.