Revamp on cards

Expert panel ups broadband roll-out estimate three-fold to Rs.72,778 crore

Updated - May 30, 2015 01:41 am IST

Published - May 29, 2015 11:55 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

NEW DELHI, 29/05/2015: Union Minister of Communication and IT  Ravi Shankar Prasad (left) with Secretary of Telecommunications, Rakesh Garg during a meeting of the Information Technology Ministers of States on National Optical Fibre Network (Broadband Connectivity), in New Delhi on May 29, 2015. 
Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

NEW DELHI, 29/05/2015: Union Minister of Communication and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad (left) with Secretary of Telecommunications, Rakesh Garg during a meeting of the Information Technology Ministers of States on National Optical Fibre Network (Broadband Connectivity), in New Delhi on May 29, 2015. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

An expert panel set to expedite roll out of broadband in rural areas has suggested revamp of national optical fibre network (NOFN) initiative, increasing the scope of the project that will entail three fold increase in cost to Rs.72,778 crore from about Rs.20,000 crore approved earlier.

“The original project report on NOFN…in 2011 estimated a uniform broadband speed of 100 Mbps across all gram panchayats in the country. However, the growing demand for data and the proliferation of video — for both, utility and entertainment purposes — as also the booming digital economy point to the need for higher broadband capacities in the country,” the report states.

Besides, the ambitious vision of Digital India necessitates reliable, secure and fast connectivity across the length and breadth of the country. “It is these considerations of the enhanced role and needs of a nation-wide broadband network that have prompted the committee to re-examine the original architecture, capacity, reliability and design of NOFN and to evolve this into the proposed BharatNet.”

For this, the committee has estimated the total cost of the project at Rs.72,778 crore, which is three fold higher than Rs.20,000 crore approved earlier.

The report stresses on involvement of States, besides private players, for speedier implementation of the project that has fallen far behind its planned schedule.

Besides, experts said bringing in States would also increase inflow of funds into the project.

On Thursday, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad met IT Ministers and Principal Secretaries from various States, seeking greater participation from the State governments.

Seven States have proposed to come up with their own model to roll out broadband network under BharatNet programme.

“Seven States have offered to come up with state or SPV (special purpose vehicle) run model. Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have already been talking about it,” the minister said after the meeting in which representatives from almost all States, except Delhi and some North Eastern States, were present.

Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal too agreed to develop their own model for broadband network rollout, while Haryana said that it was exploring possibility of State-led model for the project.

The committee members include former IT Secretary J. Satyanarayana, Department of Telecom Joint Secretary V. Umashankar and USO Fund Administrator Aruna Sudararajan.

The NOFN project was approved by Cabinet in 2011 and deadline to connect all panchayats was fixed by end of 2013 then deferred to September 2015 by UPA government. The Narendra Modi-led government re-examined project status and set target to complete roll out in 50,000 village panchayats by March 31, 2015, and another 1 lakh by March 2016 and the rest by end of 2016.

The Committee has also re-worked the timelines for implementation, stating that the project can be commissioned by December 2017.

1. The report stresses on involvement of States, besides private players, for speedier implementation of the project that has fallen far behind its planned schedule.

2. Experts says bringing in States will also increase inflow of funds into the project.

3. The Committee has also re-worked the timelines for implementation, stating that the project can be commissioned by December 2017.

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