(GIST OF KURUKSHETRA) Bharat Net: Bringing Broadband to Rural India
Bharat Net: Bringing Broadband to Rural India
- Internet connectivity in rural India has been increasing at a fast pace, with the rural internet user base growing around three times faster than its urban counterpart.
- According to the Network Readiness Index-2021, India has jumped to 67 rank in 2021 from 88 in 2020. Rural tele-density has jumped from 44 percent in March 2014 to 59 percent in December 2021. Meanwhile, rural telephone connections rose from 38 crore in March 2014 to 52.3 crore in December 2021.
- According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India(TRAI) data for July-September 2021, rural internet subscribers stood at 336.6 million while urban internet subscribers numbered 497.69 million. Data consumption through BharatNet optical fibre surpassed 13,000 terabytes (TB) till June 2021.This is an increase from 6,000 TB in 2020 and 300-400 TB in July 2019.
Mobile and Internet Services in Rural India:
The Government of India through various schemes approved under Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), is providing mobile and internet services in rural areas and areas affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE). The list of schemes and their status of implementation as of March 2021 is given below:
- As per Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), 90 districts falling under 11 States are affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE). In these 90 districts, 85,894 villages are having mobile and internet services out of total number of 96,794 inhabited villages (as per Census-2011).
- Scheme for providing mobile connectivity in 354 villages of uncovered border areas including Ladakh and Kargil Region, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and other priority areas. As of October 2021, around 210 villages have been covered with mobile services.
- Comprehensive Telecom Development Plan (CTDP) for mobile connectivity in the North East Region (NER) consisting of following components, to provide mobile coverage in uncovered villages and along with the National Highways:
- CTDP for NER States of Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura for installation of 2,004 mobile towers for provision of mobile services in 2,128 uncovered villages and mobile connectivity along National Highways;
- Scheme for installation of 889 towers for provisioning of mobile services in 1164
uncovered villages and along National Highways in the State of Meghalaya;
- Scheme for installation of 1,533 towers for provisioning of mobile services in 2,374 uncovered villages of Arunachal Pradesh and 2 Districts of Assam.
- Scheme for providing 4G mobile connectivity in 502 uncovered villages of Aspirational Districts in four States; namely, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
- BharatNet project for providing broadband connectivity in all the Gram Panchayats (approx. 2.5 lakh) in the country.
- Laying of submarine Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) between Chennai and Andaman & Nicobar Islands for providing connectivity to Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
- The government has approved a proposal for provision of submarine Optical Fiber Cable Connectivity by laying approximately 1,891 km of submarine cable between Kochi and Lakshadweep Islands.
- Mobile connectivity to cover uncovered villages and along National Highway (NH 223) in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- Mobile connectivity has been enhanced in Lakshadweep Islands by installing ten mobile towers.
- Satellite bandwidth augmentation upto 4 Gbps for Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- High capacity satellite-based connectivity for Lakshadweep for providing broadband
services was launched.
Moving to a Public-Private Partnership Model:
- In June 2021, the scope of BharatNet was extended up to all inhabited villages beyond GPs, along with approval for a revised strategy for implementation (creation, upgradation, operation and maintenance and utilisation of network) of BharatNet through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, covering 3.61 lakh villages including GPs across 16 states of the country.
BharatNet PPP Model will bring in the following consumer friendly advantages:
- Use of innovative technology by the Private Sector Providers for the consumers;
- High quality of service and service level to consumers;
- Faster deployment of network and quick connectivity to consumers;
- Competitive tariffs for services;
- Variety of services on high-speed broadband including Over the Top (OTT) services and multi-media services as part of packages offered to consumers, and
- Access to all online services.
- An Additional Advantage Along with the BharatNet project, the government has approved the proposal to proliferate broadband through Public Wi-Fi Networks under the framework of Prime Minister’s Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (PM-WANI).
- It is expected that with Public Wi-Fi Broadband, the user experience and Quality of Service for Broadband will be improved significantly. This service will be especially useful in rural areas where Public Wi-Fi Hotspots are also being created under BharatNet.
- Proliferation of Public Wi-Fi Hotspots will lead to increased employment for small and micro entrepreneurs, and provide them with an additional source of income.
- As Indians remained locked in their homes in the early days of the pandemic in 2020 and road and rail transport screeched to a halt, the importance of reliable channels of communication was strongly felt, especially in the rural hinterlands.
- It was to internet connectivity that the country increasingly turned to keep the wheels of the economy moving.
- Even as the government expands the rural internet network through BharatNet and other programmes, it will also have to address the problem of cost of access to the internet so as to make it affordable enough to bridge the digital divide.