Govt allows BharatNet implementation through PPP model in 16 states

The estimated maximum viability gap funding approved for the above PPP model is Rs 19,041 crores.

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Govt allows BharatNet implementation through PPP model in 16 states
Photo: ANI

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the revised implementation strategy of BharatNet through Public-Private Partnership mode in 16 states of the country. BharatNet, the rural broadband project, will now extend up to all inhabited villages beyond Gram Panchayats (GPs) in these states.

Briefing reporters after the cabinet meeting, Communications, Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the revised strategy also includes creation, upgrading, operation, maintenance and utilization of BharatNet by the concessionaire who will be selected by a competitive international bidding process. The estimated maximum viability gap funding approved for the above PPP model is Rs 19,041 crores.

The minister said that the extension of the reach of BharatNet to all inhabited villages with reliable, quality, high-speed broadband will enable better access to e-services offered by various central and state government agencies.

It will also enable online education, telemedicine, skill development, e-commerce and other applications of broadband.

Revenue is expected to be generated from different sources including the proliferation of broadband connections to individuals and institutions, sale of dark fibre, fiberization of mobile towers and e-commerce.

The states covered under the cabinet approval are Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. An estimated 3.61 lakh villages including GPs will be covered. The cabinet also accorded in-principle approval for extending BharatNet to cover all inhabited villages in the remaining states and UTs. Department of Telecommunication will separately work out the modalities for the remaining states and UTs.An official release said the PPP model will leverage private sector efficiency for operation, maintenance, utilization and revenue generation and is expected to result in a faster rollout of BharatNet.

The selected concessionaire (private sector partner) is expected to provide reliable, high-speed broadband services as per the pre-defined Services Level Agreement (SLA). "Proliferation of broadband in rural areas will bridge the rural-urban divide of digital access and accelerate the achievement of Digital India," the release said.

The penetration and proliferation of broadband is also expected to increase direct and indirect employment. The states, where PPP Model is envisaged, will facilitate free Right of Way.

The release said BharatNet PPP Model will bring consumer-friendly advantages including the use of innovative technology by the private sector provider for the consumers, high quality of service to consumers, faster deployment of network and quick connectivity to consumers, competitive tariffs for services, variety of services on high-speed broadband including Over the top (OTT) services and multi-media services as part of packages offered to consumers and access to all online services.

The private sector partner is also expected to bring an equity investment and raise resources towards capital expenditure and for operation and maintenance of the network. The release said that PPP Model for BharatNet will enhance efficiency, quality of service, consumer experience and leverage private sector expertise, entrepreneurship and capacities for accelerating the achievement of digital India. "This will be in addition to substantial savings of public money," it said.

(With ANI inputs)

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