In line with its mission to make India digital the Government of India is planning to offer USD 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.
BharatNet is a project of national importance to establish, a highly scalable network infrastructure accessible on a non-discriminatory basis, to provide on demand, affordable broadband connectivity of 2 Mbps to 20 Mbps for all households and on demand capacity to all institutions, to realise the vision of Digital India, in partnership with States and the private sector. BharatNet is an initiative that aims to provide Internet access to people in rural and semi-urban areas across the country by March 2019.
DoT Secretary Aruna Sundararajan while speaking about the development mentioned,
“We will launch phase 2 of BharatNet tomorrow to connect 150K gram panchayats with high-speed broadband by March 2019. Phase 1 of the project, under which 100K 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.”
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is also in the process of partnering with state governments of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand. To expedite the rollout of the second phase, the central government will also be providing partial funding to the local governments of these states. The companies that will be working with the government on last-mile connectivity include Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio, among others.
The project is a Centre-State collaborative project, with the States contributing free Rights of Way for establishing the Optical Fibre Network. The three-phase implementation of the BharatNet project is as follows:
- The first phase envisages providing one lakh gram panchayats with broadband connectivity by laying underground optic fibre cable (OFC) lines by March 2017.
- 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. It is to be completed by December 2018. For success in phase-2, which will also involve laying of OFC over electricity poles, the participation of states will be important. This is a new element of the BharatNet strategy as the mode of connectivity by aerial OFC has several advantages, including lower cost, speedier implementation, easy maintenance and utilization of existing power line infrastructure. The last mile connectivity to citizens was proposed to be provided creating Wi-Fi hotspots in gram panchayats.
- In the third phase from 2018 to 2023, state-of-the-art, future-proof network, including fiber between districts and blocks, with ring topology to provide redundancy would be created.