BharatNet Project is the world’s largest rural broadband connectivity programme using Optical fibre. It is implemented by Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) – a special purpose vehicle under the Telecom Ministry and is the Government of India’s ambitious rural internet connectivity programme. In other words, BharatNet is a project envisioned by the Government of India to digitally connect all the Gram Panchayats (GPs) and Villages of India.
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- India has a very large rural-urban digital divide.
- While urban India is almost completely covered both through voice and internet, rural India still suffers from inadequate connectivity, with approximately 50,000 villages that do not even have voice connectivity.
- Rural India has 2,50,000 village offices named Gram Panchayats.
- Each Gram Panchayat serves roughly about 2.56 villages on average, thus totalling approximately 6,40,000 villages.
- Connectivity in urban India is mostly provided by private entities.
- For these private operators, there is little incentive in extending their network to the rural areas, mainly on account of factors such as
- Need to cover a large area with low population density, thus limiting their return on investments
- High capital investments for setting up the infrastructure and
- High operational costs for mainly security and power.
- Hence, bridging the digital divide needs to be an initiative by the government as internet connectivity can play a significant role not only in making administration efficient and transparent but also in generating employment and rapid dissemination of information.
Introduction to the BharatNet
An expert committee reviewed the National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN) and proposed a modified project called BharatNet. It has subsumed all the ongoing and proposed broadband network projects. The project is being executed by BSNL, RailTel, and Power Grid and is being funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
- The BharatNet (formerly National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN)) has been one such digital plan of the Government of India that aims to digitally connect all of India’s villages and Gram Panchayats by broadband Internet connectivity.
- It aims to connect all of India’s households, specifically rural households through demand, affordable high-speed internet connectivity to fulfill the objectives of the Digital India programme in partnership with the states and the private sector.
- The Bharat Net project proposes broadband connectivity to households under village Panchayats and even to government institutions at the district level.
- It intends to cover all 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats for the provision of E-governance, E-healthcare, E-Commerce, E-Education, and Public Interest Access services.
- The first phase of the Bharat Net project will be completed in December 2017, providing internet access to 1 lakh Gram Panchayats. So far, 83000 Gram Panchayats have been connected.
- The types of equipment for the programme are indigenously designed and are manufactured in India, under the “Make in India” initiative.
- NOFN had not incorporated any revenue model but Bharat Net has.
Latest Context on BharatNet Project-
The deadline for completion of the BharatNet Project has been extended till June 2021 from December 2020, and a notice has been issued to Tata Projects Ltd for failing to meet projected milestones.
- The BharatNet project was awarded to Tata Ltd. in July 2018 and was originally scheduled to be completed in a year. It involves laying an optical fibre network covering 32,466 km, linking 85 blocks and 5,987-gram panchayats across 27 districts in the state.
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Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF):
The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) was established with the primary objective of providing access to ‘Basic’ telecom services to people in the remote and rural areas at reasonable and affordable prices. Subsequently, the scope was widened to provide subsidy support for enabling access to all types of telegraph services including mobile services, broadband connectivity, and creation of infrastructure like Optical Fiber Cable (OFC) in rural and remote areas.
Implementation Status of BharatNet
The implementation of the BharatNet Project is done in two Phases:
- Phase- I to connect 1 lakh Gram Panchayats (GPs) is completed.
- Implementation through CPSUs: BSNL, RailTel, PGCIL
- Existing fibre of BSNL (between Block to GPs) used to lay and connect new OFC under the project.
- At present work is under progress in balance GPs.
- Phase-II (around 1.42 Lakh GPs excluding BHQs & including GPs over Satellite media)
- New OFC from Block to GPs – Life time maintenance of network by dedicated Fibres providers for GPs.
Frequently Asked Questions about BharatNet Project
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