What is BharatNet project and why it’s a big boost for PM Narendra Modi’s Digital India dream?

Here is everything you need to know about the BharatNet project!

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Big boost for Modi's Digital India dream! (PTI photo)

The second phase of BharatNet project with an outlay of Rs 31,000 crore got off the block on Monday. Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha, along with Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi announced commencement of the phase. Reliance Jio paid the highest advance subscription fee of Rs 13 crore. But, what this BharatNet Project is all about?

Here is everything you need to know about the BharatNet project and how Narendra Modi government expedited its rollout:-

– BharatNet project has the mandate to provide high-speed broadband to all panchayats by March 2019

– Under BharatNet project, Modi 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 per cent cheaper price for broadband and wifi services in rural areas.

– The total project cost of BharatNet is around Rs 45,000 crore, of which Rs 11,200 crore have been used for the first phase.

– After rural exchange rollout in the country when telecom services started, this is the biggest project involving domestically manufactured products for the entire project

– This is the 2nd phase of BharatNet project. Under the second phase, the government will lay down optical fibre network across 1.5 lakh village panchayats. The first phase of BharatNet will be completed by the end of the year.

– The project, then called the National Optical Fibre Network, was approved by the previous government in October 2011. However, only a few hundred kilometres out of 3 lakh kilometres of optical fibre were laid across the country.

– Narendra Modi government approved changes in the project to expedite rollout and renamed it as BharatNet.

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

– According to Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan, Rs 4.5 lakh crore value can be added to the national gross domestic product (GDP) on completion of BharatNet phase 2 as a study has suggested that every 10 per cent usage of Internet in India drives up GDP by 3.3 per cent.

– 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 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 mandays during the rollout of the project.

– “India at present has 38,000 wifi hotspots. Under BharatNet phase 2, around 6-7 lakh wifi hotspots will be added with 2-5 hotpsots in each panchayats. Some of the wifi hotspots may not be commercially viable initially. So (we) will provide viability gap funding of around Rs 3,600 crore to telecom operators,” Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said.

– Under BharatNet phase 1, the government has set up 15,000 wifi hotspots of which around 11,000 are in rural areas and the rest in semi-rural

– Broadband services have already started in more than 48,000 villages and over 75,000 villages are ready for the services

– The telecom ministry will sign agreements with seven states — Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand — which will roll out the project on their own with partial funding from the central government.

– Telecom operators Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone are interested in providing services under BharatNet.

– Reliance Jio paid the highest advance subscription fee of Rs 13 crore to provide broadband services at 30,000 village panchayats, with a commitment to buy bandwidth in every panchayat from the government as it expands the project.

– Bharti Airtel shelled out Rs 5 crore for bandwidth buy to cover 30,500 village panchayats, Vodafone Rs 11 lakh and Idea Cellular Rs 5 lakh.

– The government expects to complete the entire BharatNet project by March 2019.

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