BharatNet, India’s public broadband network, expansion project will now be open to private players

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BharatNet, India’s public broadband network, expansion project will now be open to private players
BharatNet is the Indian government's broadband serviceBharatNet
  • The Indian government has expanded the BharatNet optical fibre broadband project.
  • The government has now allowed the private sector to participate in the fibre broadband rollout.
  • The BharatNet project is aimed at covering nearly 6 lakh villages in 1,000 days from August 15, 2020.
The Indian government, on Wednesday (June 30), announced the expansion of the BharatNet optical fibre broadband project to 16 states in the country. It has looped in the private sector to boost the speed of execution and also generate revenue from the service.

The government has set aside ₹19,041 crores in the form of viability gap funding, which means the government will provide funding support for any part of the project, if and when needed. Over 3.6 lakh villages over 16 states of the country will be covered under the expanded BharatNet programme, which was first launched in 2011.

In a press conference, on Wednesday, India’s Information Technology (IT) Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad announced the new developments regarding the Indian government’s optical fibre broadband project.

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The programme has been divided into 9 packages, spread across various aspects of the project and no one company will be allowed to have more than 4 packages. This, Prasad said, has been done to ensure there is no monopoly risk.

The minister also added that the overall cost over 30 years – including operational and capital expenditure – would amount to ₹95,000 to ₹1 lakh crore. By going the public-private-partnership (PPP) route, the government is spending only ₹19,000 crore, Prasad added.

Prasad highlighted the need for internet connectivity for accessing healthcare, education and e-governance services. Beyond these essential services, he also underlined that this would enable access to entertainment services, now that over-the-top (OTT) platforms are exploding in popularity.

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As of September, 2020, nearly 1.5 lakh kilometres of optical fibre cable had been laid under the BharatNet Phase 2, covering over 23,000 gram panchayats. The programme envisages connecting nearly 6 lakh villages across India in 1,000 days, starting August 15, 2020.

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