Bharat Net Project
Bharat Net Project is the new brand name of National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) which was launched in October, 2011 to provide broadband connectivity to all 2.5 Lakh Gram Panchayats. It was renamed Bharat Net in 2015. The rebranding was based on the previous experience gained from the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) that had aimed at connecting 2,50,000 Gram panchayats of the country with a speed of 100 Mbps connectivity to each. The bandwidth was created with the existing fibres of PSUs and additional fibres. The new project takes this aim a little further to the national level.
Features of Bharat Net
The project has the following general features:
The project has the underlying objective of providing high-speed broadband to all the panchayats in the country by March 2019. It will further expedite the roll-out of the fibres under the NOFN. The target includes 1.5 lakh Gram panchayats with additional optical fibre across 10 lakh kilometers. The telecom players will be given bandwidth at 75% cheaper price.
It may be regarded as a highly scalable network infrastructure, giving net accessibility to every person without any discrimination. On demand, a connectivity of upto 2 to 20 Mbps for every household. As per the capacity of demand the same facility will be extended to the institutions there too.
The project is being funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF). This fund was established with the object of improving telecom services in the remote and rural areas of India.
The plan for the project is to be implemented in three phases with the first phase providing broadband connectivity through optic fibre cable to one lakh gram panchayats. The deadline for this phase was fixed for December 2017. The second phase will extend the cables to 2, 50,000 gram panchayats. This time a mix of underground fibres, fibre over power lines, radio and satellite media are to be used. March 2019 has been set up as its deadline. Instead of the OFC underground, the aerial mode of connectivity is being used. The third phase involves providing state of the art and future proof network between the districts and blocks. In order to provided some redundancy ring topology is being used.
Cost of project-The total project requires an expenditure of Rs 45,000 crore with Rs 11, 200 crore for the first phase.
Progress So Far
Under the first phase the government has established 15,000 wifi hotspots in semi-rural and rural areas (11,000 in rural areas). This has increased the number of wifi hotspots to 38,000.
This is the final stage for laying the foundation. In order to implement this phase, the government has collaborated with several companies and states. In eight states (Assam, Madhya Pradesh, UP, Rajasthan, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim and West Bengal) BSNL has taken the responsibility of laying out the optical fibres, for three states (Himachal Pradesh, Odisha and Uttarakhand) Powergrid Corporation was awarded the contract. More companies like Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone and Reliance Jio have also volunteered for collaboration. Other than these, the ministry of telecom also signed agreements with seven states that have agreed to roll out the optical fibres themselves with partial financial help from the Central Government. These states are Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telengana, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Jharkhand. It is estimated that this phase will be completed by December 2018, three months before the expected deadline.
Around 1,09,926 GPs of OFC has been laid with the optical fibre cable covering an area of 2,54,895 km. Initiative is being taken to add around 6-7 lakh hotspots with 2-5 in each panchayat. An additional Rs 3600 crore is being given to the telecom operators to make some hotspots that are not initially viable, to a commercially viable condition after a time lag.
The project, with its huge outreach and relatively quicker implementation can be called a ‘game changer’ for India. It is one of the largest projects ever undertaken and has several benefits. Along with promoting net neutrality, it will give a boost to the public welfare schemes run by the government like e-banking, e-health, e-governance, etc. Moreover, since only domestically manufactured products are being used, it gives a huge boost to the manufacturing industry and increases self-reliance of this developing country. As per a study, about 10 per cent internet usage in India generates a GDP growth of 3.3%, which indicates that Rs 4.5 lakh crore can be added to the national gross domestic product each year once the project becomes functional.