BharatNet is a project initiated by the Union government and funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund with the aim of providing broadband connectivity to over 2.5 lakh gram panchayats in the country.
Speaking on the occasion, Ravi Shankar Prasad described the launch of Phase II as a turning point to bring digital revolution that would bridge the digital divide between rural and urban India. Under BharatNet phase 2, around 6-7 lakh Wi-fi hotspots will be added with 2-5 hotspots in each panchayat.
With the phase one of the government's ambitious all-India internet connectivity project BharatNet getting closer to completion, it has set the ball rolling for the second phase.
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The DoT had significantly increased the pace of implementation during the last six months to complete Phase I, and by December 2017, all 1, 00, 000 gram panchayats will be on the BharatNet infrastructure.
Aruna Sundarajan, secretary of DoT, siad, "We will launch phase 2 of BharatNet tomorrow to connect 150k gram panchayats with high speed broadband by March, 2019". As of today, nearly 90,000 installations have been completed and Services are expected to commence in 80,000 Global Positioning System shortly.
The second phase will provide connectivity to all 2,50,500 gram panchayats in the country using an optimal mix of underground fiber, fiber over power lines, radio and satellite media.
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The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is also in the process of partnering with state governments of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand. The Centre will provide total fund support of around Rs 10,000 crore to the state governments. BSNL will roll out optical fibre in eight states-Assam, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir and Sikkim.
The National Optical Fibre Network was approved by the United Progressive Alliance government in 2011, and it was renamed to BharatNet and its progress was expedited by the current government. It will also generate employment of 10 crore mandays during the project rollout. Some of the Wi-fi hotspots may not be commercially viable initially.
With the subsidies, telecom operators can make use of the existing optic fibre connection to build Wi-Fi hotspots and deliver wireless internet service sooner in the villages without burdening the users with premium charges. "So (we) will provide viability gap funding of around Rs3,600 crore to telecom operators".
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