On June 30, the Government of India announced that it will be expanding the BharatNet optical fibre broadband project in 16 states of India.
Further, it has considered including the private sector in the BharatNet program to ensure the execution of high-speed internet and generate revenue from the service. BharatNet program is a part of the Digital India program that aims to improve the country’s internet connectivity.
Government to fill in viability gap funding
An amount of INR 19,041 crore is set aside by the government to ensure viability gap funding. This means that the government will ensure help in the form of funding the project whenever required. The BharatNet program which was first launched in 2011 will cover 3.6 lakh villages from the 16 states.
The private sector will be involved with no monopoly risk
Ravi Shankar Prasad, Information Technology Minister of India held a press conference to brief about the new developments which have taken place in regards to the BharatNet Programmer. It was stated that the complete program was divided into nine packages that would cover different aspects of the project. However, to ensure that there is no monopoly risk, no single company will be allowed to handle more than four packages. Further, the cost of over 30 years which includes both capital and operational expenditure was stated to be around INR 95,000 to INR 1 lakh crore. Additionally, by involving the private sector in the program, the government has successfully reduced its expenditure to only INR 19,000 crore.
Internet connectivity has become important in India
Internet connectivity has become crucial in India for accessing education, healthcare and services of e-governance. Apart from these essential services, the internet is also important for entertainment services. Urban India is already utilizing the benefit of high internet speed with good routers which further can be customized to perform better from its Setting which is usually accessible either on 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1 on any web browser. Further, it was pointed out that the BharatNet Programme will help remove the rural-urban digital divide, which will help improve the country’s socio-economic condition. It is important to extend digital support to rural India to ensure that the rural Indians can easily access governance, medical and agricultural services.
BharatNet Program usage stats
The usage status of BharatNet Program as on 21st June 2021 is:
Installed Wi-Fi Hotspot GPs: 1,04,298
Active Wi-Fi Hotspot GPs: 65,074
Installed FTTH Connections: 5,09,957
Active FTTH Connections: 3,05,498
Dark Fibre Length: 26,643.64 kilometre
Bandwidth Usage: 3,980.709 GB
Number of active users: 15,71,598
Data consumption in May 2021: 27,37,238 GB
The three phases of BharatNet Program
BharatNet Program has been divided into three phases. In the first phase, one lakh gram panchayats were provided with broadband connectivity with the help of underground Optic Fibre Cable lines. In the second phase, all the gram panchayats of India were provided with connectivity using a mix of underground fibre by March 2019. The third phase which extends from 2019 to 2023 aims to provide a future-proof network that includes fibre between the blocks and districts with ring topology. The 16 states covered under the extended BharatNet Program include Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Kerala, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The private sector partner for the programme will be selected on the basis of competitive international bidding and it will involve the creation, up-gradation operation, maintenance and utilization of the BharatNet.
BharatNet Program has been delayed time and again
The government’s original deadline has been extended multiple times citing different reasons, making this program simply an ambitious program that will take years to be completed. However, if the targets are met, it will bring a huge change in the lives of the rural Indians, improving e-governance and the country’s economy. While working on the BharatNet program, the government should ensure that its accessibility and transparency are maintained. Successful implementation of the BharatNet program will bring a digital revolution to India, giving a sudden but much-needed boost to the Indian economy.