How the BharatNet project seeks to revolutionise the connectivity in rural India?

Published: October 19, 2019

BharatNet is touted as the world’s largest connectivity project. The features of the BharatNet project are:

  • The project envisages laying of about 8 lakh kilometre of incremental optical fibre cable (OFC) to all the 2,50,000-plus Gram Panchayats (GP) in the country at an estimated cost of Rs 42,068 crore ($6.2 billion) within the timeframe of March 2020.
  • The project is financed by the Universal Service Obligation Fund of the accumulated by the revenue through a 5 per cent levy on the revenues of private telecom service providers.
  • The project aims to extend the fibre connectivity which is available at the state capital, district headquarters and blocks to every GP to provide access to broadband internet services to 69 per cent of India’s rural population.

How the Connectivity has been expanded?

Phase 1
  • Phase I of BharatNet commenced in June 2014 and was completed in December 2017.
  • Under phase 1, the targets were over-achieved by covering 1,22,908 GPs with an investment of around $1.64 billion (Rs 11,200 crore)against the target of 1 lakh target for this phase.
  • About three lakh km of BSNL’s 7-8 lakh km existing fibre was used and an average of 2.7 km of new underground OFC was laid per GP.
  • Altogether over three lakh km of incremental fibre was rolled out, with the work distributed among BSNL (70%), RailTel (15%) and Power Grid Corporation of India (15%).
Phase 2
  • Remaining 1,29,827 GPs are to be covered through 5 km of new fibre per GP.
  • This phase incorporates a mix of both underground and aerial fibre as well as radio and satellite connectivity to reach more inaccessible locations such as Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Lack of Optimal Utilisation

Studies show that utilisation of the network was far from satisfactory. The total OFC length laid under BharatNet stood at 3,70,730 km and reaching 1,38,063 GPs, with 1,25,468 of them also recording connectivity and installation of equipment but the Wi-Fi installation has taken place only in 44,046 GPs and it is operational in just 14,843 GPs. The Wi-Fi user numbers too are a mere 11.92 lakh, with monthly data usage at 69,409 gigabytes.

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