The government has connected about 50,000 households in villages with broadband at subsidised rates, as part of a pilot done under the BharatNet project, which is being implemented by state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) and Bharat Broadband Network (BBNL).
“The pilot is on in about nearly 600 blocks of the country. The project aims to reach out to as many households as possible by lowering the cost of the ONT (optical network terminal) that is required to provide fibre broadband to the households,” K Rajaraman, telecom secretary, said at the CII Telecom Summit on Friday.
The BharatNet project aims at providing broadband connectivity to over 250,000 gram panchayats. As on December 7, a total of 180,709 gram panchayats have been made service-ready on optical fibre cable.
According to Rajaraman, there is huge pent-up demand in rural areas in terms of fibre broadband connectivity and it’s a supply problem, not a demand-side problem. “If we are able to offer these services (fibre broadband) at fairly reasonable price, I think the market is really going to explode,” he said, adding that there is an average data consumption of about 45 GB per month seen in rural areas under the pilot project.
In reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha on Friday, communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said, “The combined network of BSNL and BBNL today is adding more than 100,000 household connections every month, providing good bandwidth and good connectivity.”
In July, the government announced the merger of BSNL and BBNL, after which the telecom service operator has been in charge of the entire operations of BBNL.
During his address, Rajaraman also said that BSNL was working to provide 4G connectivity to every village by next year as part of the government’s 4G saturation project.
“BSNL has awarded a lot of contracts for passive infrastructure and is in the process of finalising the contracts for active infrastructure,” Rajaraman said.
Further, in order to prevent the distortion of connections due to cuts in fibre cable through construction activities and other infrastructure, the government will come up with a policy making it mandatory for people digging the road to inform the owners of the fibre network.