BharatNet, called the National Optical Fibre Network, is aimed at providing 100 Mbps broadband connectivity to more than 2.5 lakh gram panchayats across the country by 2017, forming the backbone of the government’s ambitious Digital India programme.
The progress of the BharatNet project implementation has been slow due to a variety of reasons, including the “inability of Bharat Broadband Network Limited” to procure optical network termination equipment in time as well as “major gaps in the implementation strategy.” As of 2 May 2016, the OFC (optic fibre cable) pipe laid is 139,582 km, optical fibre laid is 111,726 km. OFC pipe is laid in around 61,000 gram panchayats and optical fibre in 50,500 gram panchayats.
On April 30, the Telecom Commission approved a revised strategy for a three-phase implementation of the BharatNet project. The first phase envisages providing one lakh gram panchayats with broadband connectivity by laying underground OFC lines by next March. For success in phase-2, which will also involve laying of OFC over electricity poles, the participation of states will be important.
This is a new element of the BharatNet strategy as the mode of connectivity by aerial OFC has several advantages, including lower cost, speedier implementation, easy maintenance and utilisation of existing power line infrastructure.
Further, in phase-2, the last mile connectivity to citizens was proposed to be provided creating WiFi hotspots in gram panchayats. Andhra Pradesh has followed an innovative approach in using technology for mapping lines using resources of MGNREG scheme and those of the power department.