India today launched the second phase of bharatNet, the extended broadband network to provide free connectivity to all p gram panchayats and all village level administration units.
Private telecom players including Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular have shown interest in offering the last-mile connectivity. While RJio has paid an advance usage charge of ₹13 crore, Bharti Airtel paid ₹5 crore, and Vodafone and Idea paid ₹11 lakh and ₹5 lakh, respectively, to the Department of Telecom.
Communication Minister Manoj Sinha, Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar and Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar Sushil Modi and IT ministers of different states launched this at a function in New Delhi.
Sinha said the government has slashed bandwidth price under the BharatNet project 75%, which will help telecom operators provide services at affordable rates.
Sundararajan said the total project cost of BharatNet was around Rs 45,000 crore, of which Rs11,200 crore have been used for the first phase.
"Broadband services have already started in more than 48,000 villages and over 75,000 villages are ready for the services", Sinha said. The current government approved changes in the project to expedite the rollout and renamed it as BharatNet. The second phase is expected to connect 1.5 lakh panchayats.
For instance, Airtel has promised to adopt 30,500 Global Positioning System to connect its 4G broadband network using BharatNet's optical fibre. "This centre, with around 100 Mbps bandwidth, is equipped to provide tele-medicine-remote medical consultancy, tele-education, entertainment, digital payments and e-governance services, empowering the people in these villages and achieving the vision of Digital India", a senior official from the company told BusinessLine.
The Telecom Ministry has signed MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with seven states, who will roll out Phase II of BharatNet on their own with partial funding from the central government.
Assam, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu Kashmeer are among the states where the connectivity hasn't reached yet. Power Grid Corporation of India has been awarded contract for three states - Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Odisha. Under BharatNet phase 2, around 6-7 lakh Wi-fi hotspots will be added with 2-5 hotspots in each panchayat.