Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha said that the Indian government had approved Rs 4,066 crore for providing last mile connectivity, through Wi-Fi or any other suitable broadband technology, to people in all gram panchayats under the BharatNet project. The Indian government has a plan to provide connectivity to 2,50,000 gram panchayats under the BharatNet project in the country by March 2019, he informed Parliament.
"The strategy to provide last mile connectivity has been approved by the Telecom Commission on September 8, 2017. The tender to select the implementing agency for provision of last mile connectivity has been prepared by Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL)," Sinha said, adding that the government provided optical fibre connectivity to 1,08,237 GPs by laying 2,52,547 km Optical Fibre Cable (OFC), and 96,039 gram panchayats are ready for broadband services as on December 24.
"In the Phase-I of the project, 1 lakh GPs are envisaged to be connected on 100 Mbps (megabit per second) speed. However in Phase-II, to cover the remaining GPs, dark fibre for leasing to Service Providers, provision of 1 Gbps (gigabit per second) bandwidth in case of wired media (OFC) and minimum 100 Mbps bandwidth scalable up to 1 Gbps in case of wireless media (radio) at a GP have been decided," Sinha said.
The Minister also said that the government is planning to equip towers with solar power kits so that they keep functioning even when there is no power supply to improve internet connectivity through mobile phones especially in the rural areas.
In order to improve mobile internet connectivity in the rural areas, the government is increasing the number of BSNL towers. Sinha said that in 2011, there were 53,000 villages where there was no internet connectivity through mobile phones, and the number has come down to 30,000.
"The Centre has asked the states to identify such villages so that connectivity can be provided, he said.
The Minister said that BSNL had posted an operating profit and more towers will be set up to improve the service and connectivity of the public sector enterprise. There are around 4.61 lakh mobile towers in the country out of which BSNL has 66,771 mobile towers.
BSNL had previously submitted a proposal about providing 4G services which the government is considering.