The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has urged state governments to solve issues and expedite permissions related to 4G mobile services’ coverage in the uncovered villages by Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL).
In a review meeting held recently on the BSNL’s 4G saturation project in such villages, issues such as allocation of land, speedy clearance of sites in forest areas, right-of-way (RoW) permissions, allotment of sites, among others, were highlighted by the state-owned telecom operator.
“It is requested that a special State Broadband Committee meeting may be convened at the earliest, preferably by 10th Nov, 2022, with participation of revenue/forest/electricity board officials for taking expeditious decisions on the issues,” telecom secretary K Rajaraman said in a letter to chief secretaries of all the state governments.
A copy of the letter was reviewed by FE.
On July 27, the government had approved the project for saturation of 4G mobile services in 24,680 uncovered villages across the country at a total cost of Rs 26,316 crore. The project is being executed by BSNL through its indigenous 4G technology stack. The funding of the project is done through the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF). In addition, the government also targets to upgrade 6,279 villages to 4G, where only 2G/3G connectivity is there.
“Necessary directions also may need to be given to District Collectors/Magistrates to enable allocation of land,” Rajaraman said in the letter.
After the telecom secretary’s letter, BSNL CEO PK Purwar has asked its chief general managers across all telecom operators to coordinate with the respective state authorities for timely execution of the project, according to a senior official at BSNL. The state-owned telecom operator is yet to rollout its 4G services across the country using its indigenous 4G stack.
Apart from the resolving permission-related issues for the project, DoT has also asked the state governments to provide access to data such as land revenue records, road infrastructure, power transmission and distribution, on priority through the PM Gati Shakti State Master Plan Portal.
The government aims to provide connectivity and facilitate digital inclusion of nearly 30,000 villages in the next one year.
In July, the government had also approved a Rs 1.64-trillion revival package for BSNL in order to make the company financially viable. The revival package included administrative allocation of spectrum to BSNL to provide 4G services, de-stressing of company’s balance sheet, financial support for capital expenditure, and viability gap funding for rural wireline projects, among other things.