It was called National Optical Fiber Network when launched on October 25, 2011, under the UPA-II. The aim was to lay 3 lakh kilometres of optical fibre across the country to connect 2.5 lakh gram panchayats or village blocks, but by 2014 only 350-odd kilometres were laid. Then came the Narendra Modi government with a Digital India plan and relaunched the project under a new name in 2015. It was called BharatNet — a name that was easier to remember and perhaps easier to connect with the rural population.
But the 3 lakh kilometre target was still a distant dream until August 2016, when the project had utilised just 71% of the total allocated fund, and the deadline for the first phase was pushed back and forth several times. The first deadline was December 2013, under the UPA-II, which was pushed forward to December 2017. The project was advanced to December 2016 under the NDA government, but once again pushed to December 2018. But, the government says that in all probability, the BharatNet 1 will become operational by December 2017.
While in 2 years and 5 months under the Manmohan Singh government, only 350 kilometres of the optical fibre was laid, under three-and-a-half years of the Narendra Modi government, the distance reached 2,40,222 kilometres, which seems on track to meet the December 2017 deadline.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the government began the second and final phase of BharatNet project with an outlay of around Rs 34,000 crore to provide high-speed broadband in all panchayats by March 2019. In fact, the weekly work done under the BJP government stood nearly at 1,545 kilometres, which was nearly three times the work done in two-and-a-half years under the UPA-II.
Status of BharatNet As on 12.11.2017
|Description of Work||Status|
|OFC Pipe laid||2,51,240 Kms (1,10,769 GPs)|
|Optical Fibre laid||2,40,222 Kms (1,03,736 GPs)|
|Current Weekly performance of Optical Fibre laying||1545Kms|
|Current Weekly performance of OFC Pipe laying||1044 Kms|
|Optical Fibre Cable Delivered on site||3,10,355 Kms|
Perhaps BharatNet is yet another Congress’ project put on the right track by the majority government under the leadership of Narendra Modi.
Under the BharatNet-II, the government aims to connect 1.5 lakh panchayats through 10 lakh kilometres of additional optical fibre and give bandwidth to telecom players at nearly 75% cheaper price for broadband and wifi services in rural areas.
The government said around Rs4.5 lakh crore value can be added to the national gross domestic product on completion of BharatNet phase 2 as a study has suggested that every 10% usage of Internet in India drives up GDP by 3.3%. BSNL will roll out optical fibre in eight states—Assam, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir and Sikkim that were not covered under the first phase of BharatNet.
Power Grid Corporation of India has been awarded the contract for three states—Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Odisha. The government estimates that the second phase of BharatNet will double the existing optical fibre footprint in the country and generate employment of 10 crore during the rollout of the project.
Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone are interested in providing services under BharatNet. Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone have shown interest in providing services under the BharatNet project, with Mukesh Ambani-led telecom company already paying the highest advance subscription fee of Rs 13 crore.