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BharatNet project will boost rural broadband services: Telecom Minister

BharatNet Phase-I completed in Dec 2017, while Phase-II will be over by March 2019

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NEW DELHI: There are 412.60 million broadband connections in the country of which 106.52 million are in rural areas, Communication Minister Manoj Sinha said yesterday.

Sinha said in the Lok Sabha or India’s Lower House of Parliament that broadband services in rural areas have seen good progress on the back of substantial development in the telecommunication sector.

"The number of broadband connections in the country as on 31 March 2018 stood at 412.60 million out of which rural broadband connections are 106.52 million, which constitutes 25.82 per cent of total connections," he said, adding that the government is implementing the flagship BharatNet project to link each of the 250,000 gram panchayats or the local village administrations in the country through optical fibre network.

This is the largest rural connectivity project of its kind and is the first pillar of the Digital India programme, he said.

Phase-I of the project has been completed in December 2017 and over 100,000 village administrations have been made service-ready. Phase II of BharatNet project, which aims to connect 150,000 gram panchayats (GPs) through high speed broadband, has been launched and is targeted to be completed by March 2019.

The optical fibre being laid under the BharatNet project is expected to be the primary means for internet backhaul, which can be leveraged to service the telecommunications towers in the rural areas. This, in turn, will give a boost to mobile internet availability and adoption in the rural areas. 

As part of BharatNet project, the last mile connectivity, through Wi-Fi or any other suitable broadband technology is being provided at all the GPs in the country. At each GP, on an average five access points are envisaged that include three points for government institutions and two for public places.

Overall mobile Internet penetration in the country has seen major changes in the last four years. The total number of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) across the country has increased from 790,000 in 2014 to more than 18,00000 as of March 2018 of which 905,000 BTS are of 4G. The increased number of BTS has resulted in greater adoption of mobile internet across the country, the Minister said. 

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