Published: Tue, November 14, 2017
Science | By Hubert Green

BharatNet-2 launch to connect 1.5 lakh panchayats

BharatNet-2 launch to connect 1.5 lakh panchayats

Speaking on the occasion, Ravi Shankar Prasad described the launch of Phase II as a turning point to bring digital revolution that would bridge the digital divide between rural and urban India.

BharatNet is a project initiated by the Union government and funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund with the aim of providing broadband connectivity to over 2.5 lakh gram panchayats in the country.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has organised a national conference with the state governments and service providers to showcase various models for leveraging BharatNet infrastructure and sign memoranda of understanding with service providers and state governments. By December 2017 it will be fully completed.

The second phase will provide connectivity to all 2,50,500 gram panchayats in the country using an optimal mix of underground fiber, fiber over power lines, radio and satellite media.

In line with its mission to make India digital the Government of India is planning to offer United States dollars 550.2 million subsidy to private telecom companies through viability gap funding, in a bid to connect gram panchayats via Internet as part of the second phase of BharatNet. "It was no fun for anyone", said Telecom minister Manoj Sinha while launching the phase two of the project on Monday, accepting the challenges that the first leg of the project faced where just over 350 kms of fibre could be laid in three years before the BJP government took charge, as opposed to 3 lakh km over the last three years.

The total project cost of BharatNet is around Rs45,000 crore, of which Rs11,200 crore have been used for the first phase. These states will roll out the project on their own with partial funding from the Central government.

The project, then called the National Optical Fibre Network, was approved by the previous UPA government in October 2011. It will also generate employment of 100 million mandays during the project rollout.

Reliance Jio paid the highest advance subscription fee of Rs 13 crore to provide broadband services at 30,000 gram panchayats, with a commitment to buy bandwidth in every panchayat from the government as it expands the project. "We expect telecom operators to provide at least 2 megabit per second speed to rural households".

Sundarajan added, "India, at present, has 38,000 WiFi hotspots, around 600k to 700k WiFi hotspots will be added with 2-5 hotspots in each panchayats". Some of the Wi-fi hotspots may not be commercially viable initially.

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