India’s broadband initiative through deploying national optic fiber networks has come to a milestone when seven of the states came forward with proposals of a state-led roll-out model for the ambitious national broadband network. India’s ambitious National Optic Fibre Network, now renamed as BharatNet aims to connect 250,000 panchayats.
BharatNet is now rescheduled for completion by March 2016. National fiber optic networks are vital for India’s growth, a country whose growth is retarded mainly due to the lack of visionaries in national politics. The current central government is pushing the much delayed deployment projects and had called the meeting of states to decide the pace and model of network deployment.
Currently, the national broadband network is overseen by Special Purpose Vehicle, Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) and three Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSUs) consisting of Powergrid Corporation of India Limited, BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited) and RailTel. Out of 29 states in India, 7 states opted to choose either state-run or SPV model. West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha are considering the state-run or SPV-driven model.
To allow the decision by these states, the current NOFN architecture has to be reshaped to fit the much costlier BharatNet program. The government needs to increase the budget from 3.17 billion US dollars to 11.5 billion US dollars for implementing the BharatNet. Apart from the two above options to have the broadband network operated by CPSUs or SPV, states were also given the option to allow private sectors to run it.
Reports say that the BharatNet will be more expensive because it will extend broadband connectivity to district level government institutions too and not just to villages. Broadband availability is expected to be 99.9 percent, against NOFN’s capacity of 96 percent. The designed service downtime in Bharatnet is merely 9 hours in a year, while it is 350 hours (more than fourteen and a half days) in NOFN.
Representative from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh told, the state will be able to offer download speeds of 10 Mbps at lower than 3 US dollars a month if they implement BharatNet. Officials from the Northern state of Haryana also expressed their intent on opting for the state-led broadband roll-out model.