Friday, June 24, 2022

Cabinet approves BharatNet implementation in 16 states with optical fibre connectivity

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New Delhi: The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday accorded approval for the revised implementation strategy of BharatNet through Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode in 16 states of the country. The states covered under the cabinet approval are Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. An estimated 3.61 lakh villages including GPs will be covered.

BharatNet will now extend up to all inhabited villages beyond Gram Panchayats (GPs), in the said states. The revised strategy also includes creation, upgradation, operation, maintenance and utilization of BharatNet by the concessionaire who will be selected by a competitive international bidding process. The estimated maximum viability gap funding approved for the above PPP model is Rs 19,041 crores.

The Cabinet also accorded in-principle approval for extending BharatNet to cover all inhabited villages in the remaining states and UTs. The Department of Telecommunication will separately work out the modalities for these (remaining) states and UTs.

The PPP model will leverage the private sector efficiency for operation, maintenance, utilization and revenue generation and is expected to result in a faster rollout of BharatNet. The selected concessionaire (Private Sector Partner) is expected to provide reliable, high-speed broadband services as per the pre-defined Services Level Agreement (SLA).  Extension of reach of BharatNet to all inhabited villages with reliable, quality, high-speed broadband will enable better access to e-services offered by various central and state government agencies. It will also enable online education, telemedicine, skill development, e-commerce and other applications of broadband. It is expected that revenue will be generated from different sources including the proliferation of broadband connections to individuals & institutions, sale of dark fibre, fiberization of mobile towers, e-commerce etc.

The proliferation of broadband in rural areas will bridge the rural-urban divide of digital access and accelerate the achievement of Digital India. The penetration and proliferation of broadband is also expected to increase direct and indirect employment and income generation. The states where PPP Model is envisaged will facilitate free Right of Way.

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BharatNet PPP Model will bring in the following consumer-friendly advantages:

(a)   Use of innovative technology by the Private Sector Provider for the consumers;
(b)   High quality of service and Service Level to consumers;
(c)   Faster deployment of network and quick connectivity to consumers;
(d)   Competitive tariffs for services;
(e)   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
(f)    Access to all online services.

The PPP model in this critical infrastructure of telecom is a novel initiative. The private sector partner is also expected to bring an equity investment and raise resources towards capital expenditure and for operation and maintenance of the network. Hence, the PPP Model for BharatNet will enhance efficiency, quality of service, consumer experience and leverage private sector expertise, entrepreneurship and capacities for accelerating the achievement of digital India. This will be in addition to substantial savings of public money.

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