Government’s ambitious BharatNet, an optic-fibre cable (OFC) initiative has now shifted its focus from network deployment to service delivery as it has touched nearly 50% of the country’s gram panchayats or village blocks.
“Service delivery and maintenance are now focus areas of the Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL),” telecom minister Manoj Sinha Monday said, adding that 2.5 lakh village blocks would be connected by March 31, 2019 to offer e-health and e-governance services to the people.
Sinha was speaking at the inauguration of the new BBNL corporate office at East Kidwai Nagar in New Delhi.
Network utilization and the viable business model remains a critical aspect and the government, according to him, was already looking to address it.
BBNL, a government-owned telecom infrastructure provider, originally conceived in February 2012 under the Manmohan Singh-led UPA-II regime, aims to reach out to 625,000 villages with last mile connectivity through country’s 2.5 lakh village blocks.
The mega initiative has though hit with several roadblocks including access to right-of-way (RoW), lack of business viability and resistance from many states, and has consequently missed various deadlines since then.
Manoj Sinha-led telecom department, however, completed Phase-I with connectivity to 100,000 village blocks in December 2017, and realising the challenge has also invited states to implement the initiative regionally at their own, and further sought participation from private players.
The government, in order to accelerate fibre deployment, is also currently working on setting up of the National Fibre Authority or NFA as envisaged in the new National Digital Communications Policy 2018.
“Different groups have been formed and the work is in progress to establish NFA,” Sinha added.
State-run telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has already connected 70,238 village blocks with high-speed Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) network.
Some states, according to him, have started deploying the OFC network at their own, and the Centre has planned at least five hotspots per block with three access points would be meant to deliver government services locally.
The Centre is spending Rs 80,000 per access point in each village block, and is ensuring the high-speed fibre-based network to reach to local police stations, post offices, primary schools, and healthcare centres through the Universal Service Obligation (USO) fund.
“With BharatNet network, we expect state governments to allow public-centric services to reach to the masses in a transparent and efficient manner,” the minister added.