Budget 2019

BharatNet project gets ₹10,000-cr boost

S Ronendra Singh NewDelhi | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on February 01, 2017

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To boost rural broadband connectivity, increase use of smartphones

The Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has increased the Budget of BharatNet project to ₹10,000 crore for 2017-18,up from ₹6,000 crore and said high-speed broadband connectivity on optical fibre will be available in more than 1.50 lakh gram panchayats by March2018.

“By the end of 2017-18, high speed broadband connectivity on optical fibre will be available in more than 1.50 lakh gram panchayats, with Wi-Fi hotspots and access to digital services at low tariffs,” Jaitley said in his Budget speech.

‘DigiGaon’project

Under the project, he said 1.55 lakh km of optical fibre cable (OFC) have been laid and apart from providing digital connectivity, the project will also inculcate projects such as a ‘DigiGaon’ to provide tele-medicine, education and skills through digital technology.

The BharatNet project is being carried out by a special purpose vehicle (SPV) called Bharat Broadband Network Ltd (BBNL) set up by the government and three companies including Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCI) and RailTel Corporation of India (RailTel) works as a team in this SPV.

BSNL is the one which is working on the forefront and laying down the cables at a faster rate and is also meeting the connecting target to make the country digitally strong.

“BBNL was given mandate to connect one-lakh gram panchayats by March, out of which our mandate was to connect 80,000 gram panchayats, and we are on target.

We have already connected around 70,000 gram panchayats and the rest will be completed on time,” Anupam Shrivastava, Chairman & Managing Director, BSNL, told BusinessLine.

On asked about the investments so far from the allotted ₹6,000 crore in the last Budget, Shrivastava said BSNL was allotted around ₹4,500 crore out of the total amount and has almost spent the said amount with the target getting completed.

The ₹6,000 crore had come from the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) last year and the announced allotment amount on Wednesday is also likely to come from USO Fund only, Shrivastava added.

However, with the delay in the overall project to connect 2.50 lakh gram panchayats by December 2018, there were questions around whether the government woulda chieve its target to make the country digitally strong



‘Review meeting’

There was a ‘review meeting’ also by Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad (the then Telecom Minister too), where in efficient functioning and effective project management of the project was discussed in June last year.

The pace of work had increased only in the last two years, but still the reach could not go to the remotest areas and also naxal-hit areas. Only around mid-last year, the project had started improving connectivity in North East, Andaman and Nicobarislands, as well as providing connectivity in areas affected by Left Wing extremism.

According to Prashant Singhal, Global Telecom Leader, EY, an additional allocation of ₹10,000 crore in 2017-18 indicates government’s commitment of providing high speed broadband connectivity to rural India. “The government recognises how important it is to make digital services available and accessible timely to the under connected.

Additional fund would accelerate the broadband push through faster rollouts in rural areas,”he said.

According to Arvind R Vohra,CEO and MD, Gionee India, “The allocationof ₹10,000 crore in BharatNet provides the much needed boost for the penetration of ‘Digital India’ into the rural segment,and for strengthening the consumptions of smartphones.”



Published on February 01, 2017
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