State-backed operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) expects to complete its portion of the Comprehensive Telecom Development Plan for the North East Region by the end of December 2018, the Economic Times writes. The total project entails the deployment of some 6,673 mobile towers to provide 2G coverage to 8,621 of the 9,190 unserved villages in the region, although BSNL’s portion of the project only covers the rollout of 2,100 towers in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The cost of the project is expected to run to INR53.36 billion (USD795.93 million) and is being funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF). The government received no bids for the other section of the project when it was put to tender in 2016.
The programme was initially greenlit in September 2014, but BSNL was delayed by issues sourcing the equipment. An unnamed BSNL official was quoted as saying on the matter: ‘Technical bids were conducted, but after discussion it has been decided to retest telecom equipment to generate more competition. The government wants to assure that fair opportunities have been given to bidders in the fray. Retesting will be completed in March, after which [an] execution order will be placed to successful bidders in April.’ BSNL expects to start the rollout in July 2017 and complete the deployment by December 2018.