Govt to speed up broadband connectivity in villages

Thomas K. Thomas New Delhi | Updated on November 23, 2017


Will spend Rs 4,000 cr to set up Wi-Fi hotspots in 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats

The next time you visit a remote hamlet, you may well find a high-speed broadband network available for your smartphone or laptop. Assuming, of course, that the Government’s plans to set up Wi-Fi hotspots in nearly 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats are executed smoothly.

The ambitious Wi-Fi connectivity project is estimated to cost Rs 4,000 crore.

Initiated by the Ministry of Rural Development, it has been linked to the Department of Telecom’s National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN), which is being rolled out to expand high-speed broadband services to villages.

According to the proposal, the initial funding to create the Wi-Fi zones will come from the Universal Service Obligation Fund, which pools the cess levied on telecom companies to provide rural connectivity.

The annual operational expenditure of around Rs 2,000 crore will be funded by the Rural Development Ministry.

While the optical fibre network will be rolled out up to the Gram Panchayats, the last-mile connectivity will be given to villagers using Wi-Fi routers.

According to the blueprint, seen by Business Line, every Gram Panchayat will be connected by a 100 Mbps line. This means that if 10 users latch on to a Wi-Fi hotspot, each user will get 10 Mbps each. Tariffs will be decided by the ministry.

The proposal will be sent to the Cabinet for approval.

With elections looming, the Government is looking to roll out a number of rural connectivity schemes. Another project aims to link 25 million rural households with a free Internet-enabled mobile-phone connection.

The beneficiaries will get a phone and a connection by paying a one-time fee of Rs 300. Villagers will be given a free recharge of Rs 30 (Re 1 a day), which will entitle them to 30 minutes airtime, 30 SMS text messages, and 30 MB of data usage a month.

But procedural delays could come in the way of quick execution. Already, the Government has pushed back the completion date for the Rs 20,000-crore national optical fibre network project by two years.

The execution of the optic-fibre project has been left to three public sector units: BSNL, RailTel and PowerGrid. But lack of coordination among the implementing agencies has meant that the project has not progressed beyond the pilot phase.


Published on November 19, 2013

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