NEW DELHI: The government is giving shape to an ambitious Rs 3,700-crore plan in an attempt to cover nearly 5.5 lakh villages with Wi-Fi facility by March 2019, a top Department of Telecom official said. "In September, we expect to put out tender for 2.5 lakh GPs (gram panchayats) to be covered with Wi-Fi by March 2019. This is a big goal. This will mean that if we are able to put out Wi-Fi access in literally every GP, 5.5 lakh villages will actually have access to mobile broadband," Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan told PTI in an interview. The project cost is estimated to be around Rs 3,700 crore. The government expects to start broadband services with about 1,000 megabit per second (1 gbps) across 1 lakh gram panchayats by the end of this year. Earlier, the plan was to provide 100 megabit per second connectivity to village panchayats, but under the new BharatNet, the broadband speed has been enhanced 10 times to 1 gigabit per second at every panchayat level. "1 lakh Wi-Fi will used under BharatNet service. The other 1.5 lakh need not be on BharatNet from Day 1. Once we complete BharatNet, we will integrate all Wi-Fi backward to the BharatNet," Sundararajan said. At download speed of 1 gbps, an user can theoretically download a video equivalent to the size of a general Bollywood movie in about 2 seconds. Under the new telecom policy, the government will focus on linking some 40,000 villages and increase availability of regular Internet access facility to 70 crore people, from 30 crore, by 2022. The telecom secretary termed BharatNet as "extremely crucial" for meeting new goal of the government -- Internet services for all. She was quick to point out the pace of implementing BharatNet has accelerated by seven times in the last one month. "Earlier, we were doing around 150 installations a day. We have now reached 800 installations of electronic equipment a day," Sundararajan added. Data shared by telecom minister Manoj Sinha showed that internet service has started in 33,430 gram panchayats as of September 6. As of July 2017, 2,21,925 kilometres of optical fibre cable (OFC), covering 1,00,299 gram panchayats, were laid and 25,426 GPs provided with broadband connectivity.
The government, Sundararajan said, has already completed optical fibre rollout in 1 lakh GPs and is installing electronic equipment for commissioning of broadband services. "We have crossed 61,000 GPs where electronic (equipment) have been installed. In the next 2-3 months, we will complete the installation as well as integration to the network. The network for 1 lakh GPs will be functional before the end of this year," Sundararajan said.
The government has set a target to complete BharatNet project by March 2019. The inter-ministerial panel, the telecom commission, is scheduled to meet tomorrow to consider phase-2 of BharatNet project under which 1.5 lakh GPs are to be covered with high speed broadband network.