The government has proposed a subsidy of Rs 3,600 crore to private telcos such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio through viability gap funding, for setting up Wi-Fi in rural areas as part of the second phase of the BharatNet project, set for a launch Monday.
With Phase 1 of BharatNet set to complete by the end of 2017 – which will give fibre connectivity to 1 lakh gram panchayats at an investment of Rs 11,200 crore – the government intends to double the fibre to 20 lakh km by March 2019 under phase 2 of the project, with an overall investment of Rs 34,000 crore.
The telecom department (DoT) will also sign pacts with Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand that will roll out Phase 2 of BharatNet on their own with partial funding from the government.
“We will launch phase 2 of BharatNet tomorrow to connect 1.5 lakh gram panchayats with high-speed broadband by March 2019. Phase 1 of the project, under which 1 lakh GPs were to be connected, will be completed by the end of this year. We expect telecom operators to provide at least 2 megabit per second speed to rural households,” telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan told reporters on Sunday.
Under the project, connection points or exchange for optical fibre will be set up at each panchayat. Thereafter, carriers can buy connection or bandwidth from the government to sell the same in rural areas.
Sources said Airtel has already connected its 4G broadband network using BharatNet’s optical fibre in live sites of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.