January 9, 2018 12:45:40 am
Having completed the first phase of BharatNet project to provide broadband connectivity to 1 lakh gram panchayats, the Centre is expecting to preempt its original target of March 2019 for the second phase by concluding it ahead of schedule by December this year. Under the first phase, one lakh gram panchayats have been provided with high-speed broadband connectivity. Telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan said on Monday that the second phase of the project has been initiated for connecting the remaining 1.5 lakh gram panchayats.
“We have started phase-II…the Cabinet has already approved it. We hope it will be completed well in time by December 2018,” she said.
Minister of State for Communications with independent charge Manoj Sinha said that financial incentives and disincentives should be built into contract clauses to reward players for on-time delivery, and ensure speedy execution of the second phase of the project. “For the second phase, financial incentive and disincentive clauses should be incorporated,” he said.
The objective of the government’s flagship project is to provide affordable broadband services in rural and remote areas, in partnership with states and the private sector. Describing Bharat Net as the world’s largest rural broadband project, Sinha said that the project will generate massive employment opportunities, both direct and indirect, in the country in the coming days. The infrastructure is expected to catalyse digital delivery of services for the rural poor in crucial areas like health, education, livelihood, skills, e-agriculture and e-commerce.
Furthermore, the tariff for BharatNet has been revised to get more service providers on board to use the infrastructure for high-speed broadband services through wi-fi and Fibre-to-the-Home. Stating that the tender process for the second phase has already started, Sundararajan said that state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd has floated its tender. “…Wi-fi tenders whereby from 38,000 Wi-fi hotspots, by the end of implementation that is planned for December 2018, India will go to half a million Wi-fi hotspots. We believe that will be a game changer,” she said.
Later, on the sidelines of the Bharat Net event, Sundararajan also informed reporters that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is expected to hold separate meetings with the telecom operators and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to discuss the deteriorating call drop situation in the country. Sundararajan said the meeting, to be held on Wednesday, will be to discuss the current “situation on call drops” as well as the new service quality rules implemented by the Trai in October last year.
“We want to communicate to the operators, the concerns of the government on the state of call drops…we will ask service providers to get their act together,” Sundararajan said. “The service providers had made commitments on improving the infrastructure…call drop has an impact on consumers,” she added. Stating that new call drop norms have now come into effect, the secretary said that the government is constantly “monitoring” the situation.
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