- Published: 10 January 2018 10 January 2018
After years of delay, >100M Indians are ready to be connected with fiber, Wi-Fi, and LTE.
Phase 1 is finished of India's BharatNet, the most ambitious rural connectivity program in history. The expectation is all 250,000 regional councils and 625,000 villages will be reached by GPON fiber. Minister Manoj Sinha is optimistic they will beat the March 2019 completion target.
Most villages will have local Wi-Fi, sometimes from the local Post Office and often through a program of local businesses. Fiber backhaul is being provided inexpensively to the Indian telcos, who are installing LTE. Reliance Jio, already reaching over 80% of Indians, will presumably use BharatNet backhaul as they extend their LTE network to 95% of Indians.
The fiber and most of the other equipment is produced in India. State-owned BSNL is playing a major role in construction and procurement. The $15B project is primarily funded by the accumulated Universal Service Fund.
BharatNet building began in 2011 but was far behind schedule until ~2016. The achievement since then is remarkable. Indian government companies, especially BSNL, have long been examples of how poorly some public projects have been run. The results here - even if the numbers below are slightly optimistic - prove governments can be effective as well.
Here is the complete Wikipedia article. I haven't factchecked Wikipedia and a few claims are probably politicians' truths. But the network build is real and an enormous achievement.
China, Vietnam, and now India are showing what governments can do delivering broadband. I believe the majority of new Internet connections are now due to government entities.
BharatNet, also Bharat Broadband Network Limited, is a Telecom infrastructure provider, set up by the government of India under Telecom department for the establishment, management and operation of National Optical Fibre Network to provide a minimum of 100 Mbps broadband connectivity to each one of all 250,000 Gram panchayats in the country covering nearly 625,000 villages to transform to Digital India. The last mileconnectivity with a total of 700,000 wifi hotspots to cover all 625,000 villages of India, by adding 2 to 5 wifi hotspots per gram panchayat and minimum one wifi hotspot per village, have been created by connecting high-speed 4G base tower stations of commercial telecomm operators to BharatNet, whereby commercially non-viable wifi hotspots will be subsidised by the union government grant of ₹36,000 million (US$570 million or €470 million) to sustain the operation. Government has discounted the bulk BharatNet bandwidth rates to the commercial telecom operators by 75% to enable them to offer the highly-discounted, affordable, competitive and commercially-viable BharatNet-enabled wireless cellular 4G broadband deals to the rural customers. The ₹450,000 million (US$7.1 billion or €5.9 billion) union government share of funding will come from the "Universal Services Obligation Fund" of Department of Telecommunications. It will be rolled out with the additional funding by state governments to connect all gram panchayats in India. The BharatNet is, world's largest rural broadband connectivity program. It is built 100% under Make in India economy-booster employment-generation initiative with no involvement of foreign companies.
BharatNet will provide impetus to India's economy, more employment opportunities, improved service delivery (online e-gram panchayat services, e-governance, e-education, e-health, e-medicine, e-grievances, e-agriculture, e-citizen, etc), Make in India, Digital India and Startup India initiatives.As per Morgan Stanley research, of India's 33% internet penetration in November 2017 only 15% and 2% of total internet users use online shopping and retail shopping respectively, estimated to go up to 78% penetration, 62% online shoppers and 15% online retail shopper respectively by 2027. By the end of BharatNet Phase-II in March 2019, the total current fiber optical network of 10 million km (December 2017) will grow 100% to 10 million km. This 100% increment in the fiber optic network would result in several hundred percent increment in the internet usage when in addition to 625,000 villages (each with minimum 100mbps), 2,500,000 government institutions and 5,000,000 households will also be connected to the BharatNet broadband by 2020, by adding several hundred million more broadband users to the current figures of 276.5 million wireless and wireline broadband connections out of total of 422.2 million internet users in 31 March 2017.
"BharatNet Phase-I", connecting 100,000 village councils covering 300,000 villages, is on track for completion by December 2017."BharatNet Phase-II", will be completed by 31 March 2019, to connect the remaining 150,000 village councils covering 325,000 villages.
It is both enabler and beneficiary of other key Government of India schemes, such as Bharatmala, Sagarmala, Dedicated Freight Corridors, Industrial corridors, UDAN-RCS, Digital India and Make in India.History
On 25 October 2011 the government of India approved the "National Optical Fibre Network" (NOFN) initiative, later renamed as BharatNet, to connect all 250,000 Gram panchayats in the country covering nearly 625,000 villages, by utilizing the existing optical fiber network and extending it to the Gram panchayats. To achieve this, Bharat Broadband Network was incorporated as a Special Purpose Vehicle(SPV) on 25 February 2012 under Companies Act of 1956. Between 2011 and 2014, project did not take off as planned, and only 350 km of optical fiber, out of 300,000 km optical fiber network needed for the phase-I, was laid. Between 2014 and 2017, the original phase-I target of laying 300,000 km of optical fiber was completed under the new BJP government.
The BharatNet project picked up pace under Digital India initiative after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, he renamed the project as the "BharatNet", made several changes to expedite the project, significantly enhanced the BharatNet funding to several billion dollars under the Digital India, set ambitious time-bound implementations deadlines, appointed government public sector units (BSNL, RailTel and PowerGrid Corp) for the swift implementation and monitoring, and to bypass the right of way issues for laying the optical fiber cable network the existing government-owned roads, rail lines and power lines were used. Bangalore based United Telecoms Limitedwon the bid, being almost 80% lower to the second lowest bidder ITI followed by Tejas, Sterlite, etc. BharatNet collaborated with other government entities such as C-DOT, Telecommunications Consultants India Limited and National Informatics Centre for the design and rollout plan of BharatNet NOFN Project. BharatNet assigned the execution work of network roll out to several other Government of India Public Sector Units, namely BSNL, RailTel and Power Grid Corporation of India. Project was rolled out as a collaboration between the Union Government (to provide broadband connectivity at sub-district Block-level), state governments (optical fiber to gram panchayat level) and private sector companies (wifi hotspots in each village and connections to the individual homes). Union government total share is ₹450,000 million (US$7.1 billion or €5.9 billion), the rest will be funded by the respective state governments.
Once all the gram panchayats have been connected by the dedicated fiber optical network, the last mile connectivity to all villages will be provided by the commercial telecom operators by expanding the current national network of 38,000 wifi hotspots to 700,000 wifi hotspots to cover all 625,000 villages in India. ₹36,000 million (US$570 million or €470 million), union government subsidy support will be given to the telecom service operators for rolling out Wifi hotspots in commercially non-vialble villages. BharatNet has offered the bulk broadband bandwidth at 75% discounted rates to the commercial telecom operators so that they can offer deeply discounted monetized competitive deals to the rural wireless broadband customers. Commercial operators Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone have already connected their 4G-based-broadband base towers to BharatNet at various locations to provide the high speed last mile wireless broadband connectivity.
There are 36 states and union territories of India, including 29 states and 7 UTs. BSNL was awarded work for 18 of these, RailTel received work in 8 and Power Grid Corporation of India in 5. BSNL was awarded work for 18+ states and UTs, namely Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh (divided into two projects, UP East and UP West), Uttarakhand and West Bengal. RailTel was awarded work for 8+ states and UTs, namely Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Puducherry and Tripura. Power Grid Corporation of India was awarded work for 5 states, namely Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Telangana. Delhi is included with Phase-I BSNL work for Haryana. Goa is also included with Phase-I BSNL work for Maharastra. Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu are included with Phase-II work for RailTel. Tripura is likely included with Phase-II RailTel work for the Northeast India.
- Gigabit Passive Optical Network Technology at national level:
Passive optical network network architecture brings fiber cabling and digital signals to the homes, using the point-to-multipoint communication design that enables a single optical fiber to serve multiple premises. Design based on the ITU standard G.984 and TEC spec GR no.PON-01/02 Apr 2008 provides higher bandwidth and efficiency due to the bigger variable-length network packets, allowing more efficient packaging of user traffic with segmented frame, offering higher quality of service (QoS) and low latency for delay-sensitive voice and video traffic.
- Optical line terminal at subdistrict Block level:
OLT device installed at each Block (district subdivision) will serve as the BharatNet'snational-level service provider's endpoint of a passive optical network and perform conversion between the electrical signals used by the service provider's equipment and the fiber optic signals used by the passive optical network.
- Optical fiber cable to each Gram Panchayat:
The connectivity from OLT at Subdistrict-Block-level to each Gram Panchayat is provided by the optical fiber point of presence. Optical fibre technology provides high bandwidth, low maintenance and a scalable network but requires time to roll out the physical network. End-to-end encryption is used to ensure the data security in this shared network.
- Beam splitters and Combiners:
The beam splitter (downstream, upstream is called the "Combiner") is an optical device that splits a beam of light in two, thus providing ability to connect multiple Gram Panchayats along the way to the single optical fiber cable. Use of the "Passive" (unpowered) fiber optic splitter reduces the operational cost of equipment compared to the point-to-point technology (wifi, requires power).
- Optical Network Terminals at Gram Panchayat level:
ONT, also called ONU, are the devices that transmit signals to the customer premises (each gram panchayat in this case) using fiber optic technology in a fiber-to-the-premises system. BharatNet will sign contracts with internet service provider (ISP) telecom companies to setup wifi hotspots (connected to fiber optic network via ONT), and also to provide optical fiber connections to the individual houses or institutes needing relatively much higher-speed dedicated connection. As throughput requirements of a village, institute or house increase, they will require dedicated fiber optical connection instead of village-level shared wifi. Each house or institute with dedicated fiber optical connection will also require own ONT installed by the service provider, though within the house or institute they can have own wifi setup. A Common Service Centres Panchayat kiosk for the online government e-services will be provided at each gram panchayat level.
- Hotspot (Wi-Fi) at each village-level within the Gram Panchayat:
Each gram panchayat is connected by the low-maintenance fiber optic technology, and each village under the gram panchayat is connected by a wifi hotspot tower of up to 15 meter height with a range of 5 to 7 km installed by ISP telecom companies by using short-range 5.48 GHz unused radio frequency. Comparatively easier and faster to deploy higher-maintenance wireless technology, for Wifi Hotspots in each village under the gram panchayat, is used only for the last mile connectivity. Wifi router and Antennarequire continuous supply of power, hence a [emergency power system]] is needed during the power blackout, e.g. Power inverterwith a Backup battery that may be recharged by the solar panel. Reliance Jio, Idea Cellular, Bhartitel and Vodafone have already connected their 4G Base Towers to BharatNet fiber optic OLT to provide last mile wireless coverage.
- Connectivity to the individual homes:
The Local service providers provide broadband connections to individual homes, offering employment and entrepreneurship opportunities to village youth.
Make in India
Both the optical fiber and the Gigabit-capable passive optical network broadband equipment, made to account for the dust and power outage issues in the rural areas, are made in India by C-DOT with no involvement of foreign companies.
There are 36 states and union territories of India. Delhi state is already connected. Remaining 35 will be connected under BharatNet Phase-I and Phase-II. Phase-I .
BharatNet Phase-I, across 13 states and UTs was completed in December 2017 with the Phase-I union government funding share of ₹110,000 million (US$1.7 billion or €1.4 billion). It connected 100,000 Gram panchayat, covering 300,000 villages by laying 300,000 km of optical fiber network. 13 states and UTs in this phase are: Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Delhi, Goa, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Manipur, Meghalaya, Puducherry, Sikkim and West Bengal. As of November 2017, optical fiber network roll out to connect gram panchayats is overall 90% complete, Haryana, Kerala and Karnataka are already complete, and other states as part of Phase-I are on track for completion by 31 December 2017. The last mile connectivity for the 100,000 gram panchayats in Phase-I, contracts have been already signed to connect 30,500 village panchayats by Vodafone, 30,000 village panchayats by Reliance Jio, 2,000 by Vodafone and 1,000 by Idea Cellular, and 15,000 (November 2017 figure) of these wifi hotspots have been already activated after connecting BharatNet fiber optics OLT to commercial operator's cell phone base stations, resulting in activation of broadband services in more than 48,000 villages and over 75,000 villages are ready for the services (November 2017 figure).
Last mile connectivity: Including these, the central government will set up sufficient wifi hotspots to cover 100 million citizens by 2020, and tender will be floated for this soon (as of November 2017). Additionally, Indian Railway will provide wifi hotspots, limited free access and unlimited paid access, at 600 major stations by March 2018 and all of its 8,500 stations by March 2019 with an outlay of INR7 billion (INR 700 crore or USD110 million), with 1,200 large stations catering to the rail passengers and the remaining 7,300 stations catering to both rail passengers and local population in remote and rural areas, including facilities to access government services or e-purchase of commercial products (c. 7 Jan 2018).
BharatNet Phase-II, to be completed by 31 March 2019, will connect the remaining nearly 150,000 gram panchayats covering 325,000 villages through additional 1 million km of optical fibre. Phase-II commenced with the union government funding share of ₹340,000 million (US$5.4 billion or €4.5 billion), with the current 250 km per day pace of optical fiber network roll out which needs to be raised to 500 km per day to achieve the completion target of March 2019. Roll out will be expedited with November 2017 [memorandum of understanding]] with seven more states, namely Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Telangana. Phase-II will double the total optical fiber network of the nation and will generate 100,000,000 mandays employment for the roll out.