Government launches BharatNet phase 2 project

Government launches BharatNet phase 2 project

Government launches BharatNet phase 2 project

The target is to connect 150,000 gram panchayats by March 2019.

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.

Vodafone India and Idea Cellular gave initial installments of Rs 11 lakh and Rs 5 lakh, respectively.

Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad described the launch of BharatNet phase-2 as a momentous occasion, Union communications minister Manoj Sinha lauded Telangana state and urged other states to emulate it.

Telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan said BharatNet Phase I is 90 percent completed.

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The total project cost of BharatNet is around Rs45,000 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 government aims to bridge digital divide in rural and remote areas of the country by providing affordable broadband at minimum 100 Mbps speeds through robust network infrastructure through the Rs 45,000crore Bharat Net programme, which was earlier known as National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN). However, only a few hundred kilometre, out of 3 lakh kilometre of optical fibre, were laid across the country.

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

For instance, Airtel has promised to adopt 30,500 Global Positioning System to connect its 4G broadband network using BharatNet's optical fibre.

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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. BharatNet is an intergral part of Digital India.

"DoT (Department of Telecom) will sign Memoranda of Understanding with states for implementation of BharatNet Phase II during the conference", it said.

BSNL will roll out optical fibre in yet to be covered locations of eight states - Assam, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir and Sikkim - which were not covered under the first phase of BharatNet. So, we will provide viability gap funding of around $550 million (around Rs 3600 crore) to telecom operators.

Phase II of the project will set up Wi-Fi in every village, for which tender will be floated soon.

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