State owned telco BSNL will install optical fibre cables spanning 5,200 kms to connect close to 1,518 gram panchayats in Assam, reports PTI. This accounts for 70% of the total panchayats in the state. BSNL will additionally install 3000 WiFi hot spots across the fibre cable locations and first WiFi network is slated to go live in Guwahati by March, added the report.

BSNL currently provides subsidized broadband connections in rural and remote areas of the country at rates starting from Rs 99, Rs 150, Rs 350 up till Rs 999 with a minimum speed of 512 Kbps, without any other installation charges. This project is funded by the Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF), set up by the government for providing telecom services in rural areas at subsided rates. In September, BSNL received subsidy amount of Rs 1,250 crore for the rural broadband connections.

Apart from this BSNL has been separately installing its own WiFi in various locations, including tourist destinations and more hotspots in 40,000 locations around the country to make up for the lack of its own 4G services. In October last year, state owned entities BSNL and MTNL had signed a deal with the Union Tourism Ministry to equip 100 tourist destinations across the country with high speed public WiFi hotspots

Bharat Net fibre project

The Bharat Net project, which aims to deploy high-speed optical fibre-cable network across rural areas of the country had reached 59,945 Gram Panchayats spanning a distance of 137,515 kms as of November 2016. Bharat Net was rebranded from its initial name National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN) in April last year and aims to cover a total of 2.5 lakh gram panchayats. Its aim is to connect 90,000 villages by fiscal 2017 end. The project is funded by the USOF.

Between April 2014 to March 2016, the net addition in overall (wireless+wireline) connections in rural areas was 69.99 million. The rural tele-density rate reached over 51 % at the end of September, 2016, according to the DIPP.