BharatNet phase 2Approx Read Time: 3 min
- Punjab became the first state to connect all of its gram panchayats (GPs) under the BharatNet scheme for rural broadband internet connectivity.
- However, many states continue to struggle to complete the work on BharatNet phase-II.
Background on BharatNet phase-II:
- Phase-II delays:
- Under BharatNet phase two, the government aimed to provide last mile optical fibre connectivity to the remaining 1.5 lakh gram panchayats (GPs).
- However, by July 2020, only about 7.5 per cent of these have been made service ready so far.
- As against a target of laying down 3.1 lakh km of optical fibre cable, less than 1 lakh km of cable has been laid down by the end of 2019.
- Reasons for delays:
- Failings by nodal agencies
- Lack of approved detailed project report
- Non-existent project implementing agencies
- Non-availability of funds
- Rework on the fibre laid out during Phase-I
- Under BharatNet phase two, Punjab had connected and made all of its 4,754 GPs service ready as of September 30, while laying about 12,000 km of optical fibre to connect these areas.
- Note: A service ready GP is defined as one that has been connected by optical fibre to the main internet grid of the state and has active users in the villages adjoining the gram panchayats.
- In Punjab, the government of India’s Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) has implemented the BharatNet.
Other states lagging:
- Eight larger states including Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Telangana, Odisha and Tamil Nadu are struggling to complete the work on BharatNet Phase-II.
- These states have either opted to lead the projects themselves or complete the work in a public-private partnership (PPP) mode.
- Implementing BharatNet requires constant co-ordination from several agencies such as the road, transport and highways department, the state-level roadway departments and the municipalities.
- State-led models will have to improve on these factors to catch up with the schedule.
- The BharatNet project initially began as the National Optical Fibre Network in 2011.
- Under the BharatNet project, the Centre aims to connect all gram panchayats (GPs) through optical fibre.
- Phase I:
- The target of completing 1 lakh gram panchayats (GPs) under phase-I of BharatNet was achieved in December 2017.
- Phase II:
- BharatNet Phase-II is planned to connect the remaining 1,50,000 GPs.
- Phase II is being implemented through three models – state-led model, CPSU model, and private sector model.
- Under the BharatNet project, about 3620 GPs are planned to be connected over satellite media, rather than through optical fibre.
- Once the optical fibre is laid, the GPs will be provided WiFi access.
- Every GP shall have on an average five WiFi Access Points (APs), including 3 APs (on average) for public institutions such as educational centres, health centres, post offices, police stations, etc.
- To promote uptake of the Internet in rural areas, the union government recently promised free Wi-Fi for three months to about 48,000 villages, which are already connected through Bharatnet.
CSCs as nodal points:
- The Common Service Centres (CSCs) act as the nodal point from where the WiFi and broadband services are distributed.
- BharatNet is being utilized by BSNL, CSC SPV, TSPs and ISPs for delivery of services at Gram Panchayats.
- The total cost of both the phases was pegged at Rs 45,000 crore by the government in November 2017.
- So far, more than Rs 20,000 crore has been spent from the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) for connecting villages under BharatNet.