Govt approves new budget for BharatNet, greenlights second phase

20 Jul 2017

The Indian government has approved the second phase of its ambitious BharatNet programme, which aims to provide broadband connectivity to all of the country’s 250,000 gram panchayats (village-level administrative division). The Economic Times writes that the cabinet has approved a total budget of INR420.7 billion (USD6.5 billion) for the programme, including INR111.5 billion for the first phase, which covers 100,000 villages, and INR187.9 billion for the second phase, which will connect the remaining 150,000 villages. The remaining INR121.3 billion will be used to cover the cost of last-mile connectivity, operation and maintenance and the replacement of elements of state-owned telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited’s (BSNL’s) existing fibre infrastructure. Alongside the approval of the new budget, the deadline for the programme was pushed back to March 2019, following a series of delays in completing the first stage. The project had initially envisioned installation of underground fibre only, but has now been broadened to include aerial fibre as well as radio and satellite links.