Union minister Manoj Sinha on Thursday said considering the strategic importance of the Northeast, the Telecom Commission has approved a comprehensive strategy to implement BharatNet in the region.
“Under this strategy all the uncovered gram panchayats in the region especially in ” Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura will be linked through broadband connectivity on satellite media by December 2018 at an estimated cost of Rs 733 crore,” the Communication minister. Sinha said that under the Comprehensive Telecom Development Project for Northeast, 6994 towers would be set up to provide connectivity to 8621 villages and along the national highways at a cost of Rs 5336 crore.
“MoU has already been signed between BSNL and USO Fund to set up 2817 towers in Arunachal Pradesh and two districts of Assam, while the work of setting up of 2004 towers in six states has been initiated by Bharti Airtel since December last year, which is to be completed in 18 months,” he said.
Admitting slow pace of BharatNet project in the Northeast, the Union Minister attributed it to capacity of the implementing agencies, developmental activities like expansion of National Highways besides hilly terrain, excessive rainfall and law and order related issues.
“We are committed to partner with state governments of the region to accelerate the pace of implementation of the project,” Sinha told reporters here after a review meeting here with Chief Minister Pema Khandu and other government officials.
The meeting was held to review the implementation of BharatNet and other major telecom projects in the north eastern states to realise Prime Minister Narendra Modi”s goal of Digital India by bridging the digital divide.
He said the government had achieved a significant milestone under the project by completing Phase-I and connecting over one lakh gram panchayats across the country with high speed optical fibre network as per the declared deadline of December 31, 2017. He said, out of the 11,970 gram panchayats in Northeast, 5858 were taken up in the first phase and 2281 gram panchayats are Service Ready.
“For Meghalaya, the Telecom Commission has recommended setting up of 2173 towers on 2G+4G technology at an estimated cost of Rs 3911 crore,” the minister said.
Sinha said in order to ensure reliability and redundancy in the transmission network and augmentation of transmission media between state capitals in the region and also between state capitals and district headquarters, BSNL would set up about 3000 km of OFC network at an estimated cost of Rs 295.97 crore. He said armed forces in the border areas and police would be provided satellite phones to cope up with natural calamities or any other eventualities. The minister during the day also handed over four satellite phones to the Khandu.
The minister also launched mobile connectivity of unconnected villages of the Northeast besides launching of satellite connectivity of gram panchayats under BharatNet, unveiling of vision document of “Ashtamangal” Phase II. “The second phase of BharatNet and Ashtamangal would be completed by December this year or March next year,” Sinha added.