NEW DELHI: The government has completed the first phase of the BharatNet programme, having connected 1 lakh gram panchayats (GPs) with optic fibre, telecom minister Manoj Sinha Monday said, and hoped that the second phase to connect to 1.5 lakh more GPs will be completed before time by December this year.
“101,370 gram panchayats (village blocks) are service ready as of December 28, 2017, while the second phase has already been initiated with eight states doing at their own,” Sinha said.
Some 2.55 lakh km of optic fibre cable (OFC) has been laid so far, according to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), as a part of scalable network infrastructure accessible on a non-discriminatory basis to offer on-demand Internet services to rural India.
The minister also said a dialogue with telecom service providers was fruitful as the companies had committed to provide services to 70,000 village blocks by using the optic fibre network of BharatNet and ensuring low tariffs.
The DoT had in November last received an advance payment of Rs 18 crore from service providers.
The programme conceived by Manmohan Singh-led UPA-II government in 2011 has been marred with localised challenges and has missed various deadlines since then.
In July 2017, the Cabinet approved the second phase of the national broadband initiative at an outlay of Rs 31,000 crore with the active role of state governments and private players.
“We have already started Phase 2…the Cabinet has already approved it. We hope it will be completed well in time by December 2018,” Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said here. The original timeline for completion of Phase 2 is March 2019.
The second phase of the programme is slated to connect the remaining 1.5 lakh village blocks by March 2019 and also talks about ensuring broadband delivery through satellite at 5,300 locations, radio communications and aerial fibre via electric poles in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
“Rural India will get benefit of technology advancement and it (BharatNet) will facilitate direct and indirect employment opportunities for many, and can contribute to the inclusive growth of India” the minister said.
The government, according to him, is also planning to reward good performers by way of putting financial incentives for motivation and disincentives for those missing the deadline or poor show.
Sundararajan and Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund administrator Sanjay Singh are likely to take a joint call on how to incentivize BharatNet stakeholders for their performance.
Sundararajan said reliance on foreign-made equipment has been cut down with indigenously-manufactured components developed by telecom R&D agency C-DoT(Centre for Development of Telematics) being used in BharatNet.
“ITI (Indian Telephone Industries) that was facing severe challenges has now become a leading manufacturer of G-PON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network) while BSNL (Bharat SancharNigam Ltd) is putting its best foot forward,” Sundararajan said.
Stating that the tender process for the second phase has already started, she said state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has floated its tenders.
“…Wi-fi tenders whereby from 38,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, by the end of implementation that is planned for December 2018, India will go to half a million Wi-Fi hotspots. We believe that will be a game changer,” she said.