The telecom sector is expected to create 4 lakh new jobs over period of 5 years and contribute significantly to GDP, as the Budget for 2018-19 seeks to enhance telecom infrastructure in the country, telecom minister Manoj Sinha said.

"Telecom sector will contribute significantly to the GDP in next five years and over 4 lakh news jobs will be created," Sinha told reporters.

The minister said the government has allocated Rs 10,000 crore for enhancing telecom infrastructure in the country, including laying of 4 lakh kilometres of optical fibre cable (OFC) network to connect 1.5 lakh gram panchayats by March 2019, scaling up wifi networks and connectivity in north- eastern states and laying undersea cable for connecting Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANI) and Lakshadweep Islands etc.

"In last three years BTS (base transceiver station) in the country have almost doubled to 16.8 lakhs from 7.9 lakh in 2014. OFC network in the country has increased from 7 lakh kilometres to 14 lakh. Under Bharat Net phase 2 another 4 lakh kilometres of OFC will be laid," Sinha said.

The government has completed phase 1 of Bharat Net project under which it is providing high speed broadband connectivity to 1 lakh gram panchayats. Under phase 2, which is to be completed by March 2019, the government aims to connect remaining 1.5 lakh GPs with OFC based broadband network.

The minister said the budget allocation will be used for setting up 5 lakh wifi hotspots in rural areas.

"Installation of 5 lakh hotspots will increase wifi hotspots by 15 folds in the country. At present, there are 38,000 public wifi hotspots," Sinha said.

The DoT plans to install around 4,000 mobile towers in Naxal affected area and 6,000 towers in north-east to connect around 8,500 villages that are deprived of telecom connectivity.

"In North Eastern states, around 3,000 kilometres of OFC will be laid. Work has started for connecting ANI and Lakshadweep Islands where another 3,000 kms of OFC will be laid. With this, bandwidth will increase five times in ANI and Lakshadweep Islands," Sinha said.

He said enhance connectivity will help Department of Posts (DoP) to expedite direct benefit transfer scheme being handled by it and enhance role of India Post Payments Banks, which will be launched in March-April.

The minister added that DoP plans to increase passport Seva Kendra from 60 to 251 in this calendar year.

The minister said that provision for installing electronic system at tolls will enhance roll of telecom ministry and Make in India program.

"Due to this (electronic system at toll), I hope a new industry to the tune of Rs 10,000-12,000 crore will be created which will also generate employment," Sinha said.

He said that India has emerged as one of very strong telecom market with 1,186 million phone connections out of which 1,163 million are mobile phones, tele-density has reached around 91 per cent and internet user base increased from 422.81 million at the end of march and to 429.23 million in September.

"(Mobile service) rates have come down. With rates of data coming down, it is expected that 500 million new internet users will be added in the country," Sinha said.

He said that Foreign Direct Investments was USD 5.6 billion in 2016-17.

"In 2017-18, FDI reached USD 6.08 billion in first half of the current fiscal year, between April to September," Sinha said. – Money Control 


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