Govt allocates USD2.3bn for infrastructure projects in 2018/19 budget

2 Feb 2018

The Indian government has unveiled plans to allocate funds of around INR145 billion (USD2.27 billion) for telecom infrastructure projects in its budget for the 2018/19 fiscal year (which runs from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019), the Economic Times reports. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that INR100 billion would be set aside for infrastructure projects managed by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) whilst the other INR45 billion would be used for the ‘Network for Spectrum’ project: a programme overseen by state-owned telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) that will see the construction of an alternative communication network for the defence ministry in exchange for the release of spectrum previously used by the ministry. Of the INR100 billion figure, INR80 billion will be used for the government’s ongoing Bharat Net project, which aims to connect 250,000 gram panchayats (GPs, village-level administrative divisions) to broadband networks by March 2019; 100,000 GPs were connected by the end of 2017. Also covered by the budget are programmes for: the deployment of 156 additional mobile towers in naxalite-affected areas; upgrade work at 302 VSAT sites; the deployment of 25,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in rural areas; the construction of fibre-optic links to the Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep island groups; and the erection of 2,817 new towers to cover 4,119 unserved villages in the North East region.