This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details “BharatNet”. The topic “BharatNet” has relevance in the “Indian Economy” section of the UPSC CSE exam.

For Prelims:

What is BharatNet? Its Objectives? Features?

For Mains:

GS3: Infrastructure 

Why in the news?

Recently, the Union Cabinet granted approval for an investment of Rs 1.39 lakh crore to enhance the modernization of the BharatNet project.


BharatNet Project: 

  • BharatNet stands as the world’s largest rural broadband connectivity initiative based on optical fiber technology. The Bharat Net Project was formerly known as the National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN). It was renamed in 2015.
  • Its execution falls under the purview of Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL), a specialized entity under the Ministry of Telecommunications. 
    • It is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) established by the Government of India under the Companies Act, 1956 with a sanctioned capital of 1000 crore rupees.
  • This ambitious program for rural internet access is a crucial component of the Union government’s Digital India initiative.


Key Aspects & Advantages of BharatNet: 

  • Utilizing optical fiber infrastructure, this initiative aims to extend broadband internet access to over 2.5 lakh gram panchayats nationwide. 
  • The goal is to offer a minimum of 100 Mbps bandwidth at each Gram Panchayat through BharatNet, ensuring equitable online access, particularly in rural regions. 
  • Additionally, the project includes the establishment of Wi-Fi hotspots and other means of last-mile connectivity at all gram panchayats, facilitating services such as e-governance, e-learning, e-banking, e-commerce, and e-health. 
  • Expanding the reach of BharatNet to all inhabited villages will enhance access to e-services provided by Central and State Government agencies, potentially leading to increased employment opportunities and income generation. 
  • The BharatNet project offers home broadband packages starting from Rs 399 per month, which includes 30 Mbps unlimited data and bundled OTT offerings.


BharatNet’s Financial Allocations: 

  • The overall budget allocation for the BharatNet project amounts to Rs. 61,000 crore. 
  • Funding for the project is provided from the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
  • USOF is a mechanism created by the government to gather levies from telecom companies and support communication services in underserved rural areas.


BharatNet Progress:

  • Phase-I: 
    • Approved in October 2011, BharatNet aimed to link GPs to block headquarters using existing fiber from CPSUs like BSNL, RailTel, and PGCIL. 
    • Additional fiber was laid to bridge gaps. Phase-I completed by December 2017, covering 1 lakh GPs, later expanded to 1.25 lakh GPs.
  • Phase-II: 
    • Approved on July 19, 2017, Phase-II builds on Phase-I experience. 
    • It employs a mix of technologies (OFC, Radio, satellite) for GP connectivity. Various models (State-led, Private Sector, CPSU) are used, with Last Mile Wi-Fi for GPs.
  • Phase III: 
    • Aimed to upgrade the fiber network connecting 2.5 lakh GPs to a ring topology, establishing connections between districts and Blocks, as well as Blocks and GPs.


Advancements in the BharatNet Initiative:

  • Initially, the project aimed to provide optical fiber connectivity to 2.5 lakh gram panchayats across the nation by August 2021; regrettably, this target was not met. 
  • Presently, approximately 2.05 lakh villages have been successfully connected and 1.95 lakh GPs are service ready, and the remaining villages are projected to attain connectivity within the upcoming 2.5 years. .
  • The project’s pace was hindered by lockdowns and movement constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • In the Union Budget 2022-23, the Government decided to extend the project deadline to 2025, allowing for a more gradual and comprehensive implementation.


Key Challenges in BharatNet:

  • Network Maintenance and Quality:
    • Delay in finalizing Operations and Maintenance (O&M) contracts led to network maintenance issues.
    • Absence of service delivery and monetization models hindered network upkeep and quality of service.
    • Challenges in timely repair of fiber cuts and addressing lossy fiber resulted in network degradation.
    • Service providers leasing fiber or bandwidth experienced poor Service Level Agreement (SLA) adherence due to compromised network quality.
  • Last-Mile Connectivity Gap:
    • While connectivity was extended to Gram Panchayats (GPs), last-mile connectivity to homes, institutions, and enterprises was lacking.
    • Inadequate last-mile infrastructure prevented effective delivery of digital services to end-users.
    • Approximately 2.14 lakh Fibre To The Home (FTTH) connections were commissioned for only 65% of the population.
  • Underutilization and Return on Investment:
    • Despite substantial investment of around Rs. 42,068 Cr., BharatNet infrastructure remains largely underutilized.
    • The network’s underperformance has not yielded expected returns on the investment.


About the News: 

  • Under the next phase, The government plans to accelerate its village connectivity efforts by involving local entrepreneurs to expand broadband access to all 640,000 villages within the next 2.5 years. 
  • Similar to private telecom companies like Airtel and Jio, the government’s revamped approach includes partnering with village-level entrepreneurs (Udyamis) on a 50:50 revenue-sharing basis. 
  • While the government covers infrastructure costs, Udyamis handle home connection maintenance and operations, addressing concerns like fibre cuts. 
  • The successful pilot run in 60,000 villages involving local partners demonstrated the viability of this approach.

Govt tweaks BharatNet, clears Rs 1.39 lakh crore for last-mile broadband link | India News – The Indian Express

plutus ias current affairs eng med 8th August 2023


Q1. With reference BharatNet, consider the following statements: 

  1. BharatNet is the world’s largest rural broadband connectivity initiative based on optical fibre technology.
  2. Bharat Sanchar NigamLimited (BSNL) is responsible for the execution of BharatNet
  3. BharatNet aimed to extend broadband internet access to over 2.5 lakh gram panchayats.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only 

(d) None 

Answer: (c) 


Q2. Consider the following :

  1. The goal of BharatNet is to provide a minimum of 50 Mbps bandwidth at each Gram Panchayat.
  2. The project includes the establishment of Wi-Fi hotspots and other means of last-mile connectivity.
  3. The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) is a mechanism to support communication services in urban areas. 

How many of the abovementioned statements are correct ?

(a) Only one 

(b) Only two 

(c) All three 

(d) None 

Answer: (a)

Q3.  BharatNet in bridging the digital divide and empowering rural communities. In the light of this statement, discuss the objectives, progress, and challenges of the BharatNet initiative in transforming rural connectivity and digital access in India. 

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