Experts say broadband penetration will lead to rapid development and progress. To achieve this goal the Government of India conceived a nationwide broadband rollout programme which is now known as BharatNet. While the Telecom Department says Phase I of BharatNet is almost complete where 1-lakh Gram Panchayats have been connected, it is now all set to rollout Phase II to connect remaining 1.5-lakh gram panchayats…

NEW DELHI, NOVEMBER 12, 2017: The Department of Telecom will kick-start the second and final phase of BharatNet project on Monday (November 13, 2017) that will connect remaining 1.5 lakh gram panchayats across India. Phase II will see expenditure of Rs.34,000 crore which will be used in laying 10-lakh kilometres of additional optical fibre. In BharatNet phase I the DoT claims to have connected 1 lakh gram panchayats with high-speed broadband.

“We will tomorrow launch Phase II of BharatNet to connect 1.5 lakh gram panchayats with high-speed broadband by March 2019. Phase 1 of the project, under which 1 lakh GPs were to be connected, will be completed by the end of this year. We expect telecom operators to provide at least 2 megabit per second speed to rural households,” said Telecom Secretary Aruna Sunderarajan.

Phase II of BharatNet will be launched by Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha, Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar on Monday. The Telecom Ministry will sign agreements with seven states — Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand — which will rollout the project on their own with partial funding from the central government.

Telecom Secretary Aruna Sunderarajan

“The total project cost of BharatNet is around Rs. 45,000 crore, of which Rs. 11,200 crore have been used for the first phase. After rural exchange rollout in the country when telecom services started, this is the biggest project involving domestically manufactured products for the entire project,” Ms. Sundararajan said.

Around Rs.4.5 lakh crore value can be added to the national gross domestic product (GDP) on completion of BharatNet Phase II as a study has suggested that every 10 per cent usage of Internet in India drives up GDP by 3.3 per cent. BharatNet Phase II will double the existing optical fibre footprint in the country and generate employment of 10 crore mandays during the rollout of the project.

State-run BSNL will roll out optical fibre in yet to be covered locations of eight states — Assam, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir and Sikkim — that were not covered under the Phase I. Power Grid Corporation of India has been awarded contract for three states — Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Odisha.

The Telecom Secretary said DoT is setting up connection point or exchange for optical fibre at each panchayat under the scheme. Thereafter, telecom operators can buy connection or bandwidth from the government to sell the same in rural areas. Telecom operators Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone are interested in providing services under BharatNet.

Ms. Sundararajan said broadband services rates are expected to be low because of intensive competition in the sector and the government is offering bandwidth under the project to telecom operators at 75 per cent lower rate than they currently buy it. The government will also provide support of Rs 3,600 crore to telecom operators for rolling out Wi-Fi in villages.

“India at present has 38,000 Wi-Fi hotspots. Under BharatNet Phase II, around 6-7 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots will be added with 2-5 hotpsots in each panchayats. Some of the Wi-Fi hotspots may not be commercially viable initially. So we will provide viability gap funding of around Rs 3,600 crore to telecom operators. The total Wi-Fi rollout cost is estimated to be around Rs 10,000 crore,” she said. Under BharatNet Phase I, the government has set up 15,000 Wi-Fi hotspots of which around 11,000 are in rural areas and the rest in semi-rural.

On the ‘Make in India component’ in BharatNet, she said that the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT) has developed the technology, which is suited for Indian conditions. Now domestic equipment makes and optical fibre manufactures like Starlite Tech, L&T, Tejas etc are providing equipment for the project based on this technology.

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