The Indian government has set a target to provide 4G network to all uncovered villages in the country by 2024, said a PTI report. According to Devusinh Chauhan, the Minister of State for Telecom, about 38,000-40,000 villages in remote and difficult areas do not have access to 4G signals, creating a digital divide. The project was approved by the Union Cabinet in July 2022 and will provide 4G mobile services in 24,680 uncovered villages. In addition, 6,279 villages that only have 2G and 3G connectivity will be upgraded to 4G.
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The project will be executed by the state-owned telecom firm BSNL using an indigenously developed 4G technology stack and will be funded through the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF). The total cost of the project is Rs 26,316 crore, which includes capital expenditure and operational expenditure for five years. The project has a provision to include 20% additional villages on account of rehabilitation, new settlements, and withdrawal of services by existing operators, among other reasons.
Chauhan emphasised that the provision of 4G network to all uncovered villages will lead to socio-economic transformation and bridge the digital divide. It will enable citizens in remote areas to check the accountability of the government once they are digitally connected. Connecting villages digitally will also mean connecting people with democratic values, he added.
Apart from the 4G saturation project, the government has been running a drive to connect unconnected villages through private firms as well as state-owned telecom firm BSNL by providing financial support under USOF schemes. About 2.5 lakh villages have been connected with optical fibre, and 4 lakh villages will be connected with a high-speed broadband network soon, according to Chauhan.
The provision of 4G network to all uncovered villages will not only improve connectivity in remote and difficult areas but also promote digital literacy and inclusion, ultimately contributing to India's goal of achieving a Digital India.