Rs 34,000-crore BharatNet Phase II to launch on Monday

New Delhi: Aiming to provide high-speed broadband connectivity in all panchayats by the end of March 2019, the government is all set to launch its second phase of the BharatNet project, with an outlay of Rs 34,000 crore, on Monday, Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said here on Sunday.

"BharatNet Phase I is 90 per cent completed. By December 2017 it will be fully completed. We will tomorrow launch Phase II of BharatNet to connect 1.5 lakh gram panchayats (GP) with high-speed broadband by March 2019," Sundararajan told reporters here.

The project will be launched on Monday by Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha, along with Law and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar.

Under the Phase I, 1 lakh GPs or 3 lakh villages were connected.

Under the Phase II, the government plans to connect 1.5 lakh panchayats through 10 lakh km of additional optical fibre.

The Telecom Ministry will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with seven states -- Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Jharkhand.

These states will roll out the project on their own with partial funding from the Central government.

Sundararajan said the total project cost of BharatNet was around Rs 45,000 crore, of which Rs 11,200 crore have been used for the first phase.

State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) will roll out optical fibre in eight states -- Assam, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir and Sikkim, and Power Grid Corporation of India in three states -- Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Odisha, the Telecom Secretary said.

According to government estimation, the second or final phase of BharatNet will double the existing optical fibre footprint in the country. It will also generate employment of 10 crore mandays during the project rollout.

Telecom operators like Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone have evinced interest in providing services under BharatNet, she said, adding that the government will give a support of Rs 3,600 crore to telecom service operators for rolling out Wi-Fi in villages.

Sundararajan said there are around 38,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in the country now.

"Under BharatNet Phase II, around 6-7 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots will be added with two-five hotpsots in each panchayat. Some of the Wi-Fi hotspots may not be commercially viable initially. So (we) will provide viability gap funding of around Rs 3,600 crore to telecom operators."

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