The government has resolved the vexed issue of lack of equipment for offering end-to-end connectivity through its ambitious BharatNet project to rural India. The ministry of communications has recently awarded a contract worth around Rs. 600 crore for supplying of gigabit passive optical network (GPON) equipment. GPON is a high bandwidth shared fiber access technology.
This issue has been plaguing the implementation of the project since last two years, with the tender awarded to a firm for the equipment supply being cancelled. Due to lack of GPON equipment, the government could not provide Internet to most of the gram panchayats despite laying down optical fiber. The new tender has been awarded to at least three new firms now over the last two months, according to a senior government official who requested anonymity. GPON procurement tender, which was impeding the end-to-end connectivity for the last two years, was finalized by Bharat Broadband Network Ltd. in June 2016. BBNL, a special purpose vehicle, has been set up to execute the BharatNet project.
The equipment supply will start from October. It will fast track the implementation of the project which has been running behind targets. Over the last two years, connectivity to 7162 gram panchayats has been provided till June 2016 from 427 gram panchayats in March 2015. India also plans to rope in private firms to provide last-mile connectivity under the BharatNet program.
The government's plan is to connect 100,000 gram panchayats by March 2017 in the first phase through underground optical fiber, while in the second phase, all 250,000 gram panchayats will be connected using an optimal mix of underground fiber - over power lines, radio, and satellite media.