BharatNet: Telecom players rush to provide last-mile links

S Ronendra Singh New Delhi | Updated on January 09, 2018

Connecting Bharat MoS for Communications Manoj Sinha with the Minister for Electronics & Information Technology and Law & Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad and Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, Sushil Modi receiving a cheque from Director, Vodafone India, P Balaji during the inauguration of the national conference on ‘BharatNet and its utilisation with States’ in New Delhi on Monday   -  PTI

Operators make advance payments to offer high-speed broadband services to villages

BharatNet broadband, which is a base for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project — Digital India — saw a rush from telecom service providers seeking to use BharatNet broadband services to provide last-mile connectivity to villages.

The TSPs paid a advance usage charge for utlising BharatNet. 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.

Phase-II kicks off

The companies paid the advance cheques to the government, which has kicked off phase-II of the BharatNet project with an outlay of ₹31,000 crore and a mandate to provide high-speed broadband to all 2.5 lakh panchayats by March 2019.

The government expects to complete the entire BharatNet project, entailing an investment of ₹42,000 crore in both the phases, by March 2019.

Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha, along with IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi announced the commencement of phase-II of the project here.

“Most of the TSPs had shown interest with different revenue models and they are doing things in innovative ways,” Sinha told reporters here, adding that the tariff rates for the Teecom Service Providers have also been brought down by 75 per cent.

He said that by December-end, one-lakh gram panchayats (GPs) will be ready to offer services. More than 85,000 GPs are service-ready now and 75,000 GPs can start providing services to the villages now, he added.

The TSPs will be providing last-mile connectivity in villages (fibre to home) after taking the broadband fibre from BharatNet at the GPs.

For instance, Airtel has promised to adopt 30,500 GPs to connect its 4G broadband network using BharatNet’s optical fibre. The company says it has already set up 4G base tower stations in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and has already been made live providing high-speed 4G mobile broadband services to people through BharatNet.

“Airtel has also established a ‘Broadband experience centre’ in partnership with BharatNet. 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.

Last-mile connect

Ravi Gandhi, Head of regulatory affairs at Bharti Airtel, handed the cheque to Sinha. The company, in partnership with BharatNet, also plans to connect its last-mile 4G network using BharaNet’s optical fibre, the official said.

Similarly, Reliance Jio has said it will provide services to 30,000 GPs, while Vodafone and Idea are to adopt 2,000 and 1,000 GPs, respectively.

“We have paid over ₹13 crore including GST to buy bandwidth from BharatNet. We will initially cover 30,000 village panchayats and will set up nodals in every panchayat as the government expands BharatNet,” said Mahendra Nahata, Director, Reliance Jio.

MoUs were also signed between the DoT and seven States: Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Jharkhand and Gujarat.

Published on November 13, 2017

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