Guwahati: Telecom minister Manoj Sinha on Tuesday said the centre is initiating projects worth Rs10,700 crore for improving telephone connectivity in north-east (NE) by December this year.
“Telecom connectivity is a big problem in north-east. The central government had identified various solutions, but due to various reasons these could not be completed. Now, the department of telecom (DoT) has initiated projects worth Rs10,700 crore to complete these by December 2018," Sinha said at a press conference.
This amount, which is about 1/8th of the total investment planned by the DoT, is likely to be enhanced to Rs15,000 crore for north-east, the minister said. “As part of the initiatives, we are rolling out a comprehensive telecom development project at an estimated cost of Rs5,336.31 crore," he said.
“In 8,621 villages and along the national highway in the north-east, 6,673 mobile towers will be set up to provide connectivity and an MoU was signed between BSNL and USO Fund for this purpose," Sinha said. Out of these, 2,817 mobile towers will be set up by BSNL in Arunachal Pradesh and two districts of Assam, while the work of erecting 2,004 towers in six states has been initiated by Bharti Airtel in December 2017 and will be completed in 18 months, he added.
Attending a two-day conference on implementation of BharatNet and other major projects in north-east, the telecom minister dedicated the Asthamangal Project by BSNL to the nation, especially to the citizens of the region.
Under this project, alternate bandwidth of 810 gbps at a cost of about Rs35 crore has been provided by BSNL using connectivity through optical power ground wire (OPGW) of Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL) for all state headquarters and other important locations of NE region.
“In conference with all the stakeholders, we have reached an understanding that Centre and states have to solve the problems jointly to expedite development in this region. Most of the projects we have planned, will be completed by the end of this year," the minister said.
He informed that the progress of the BharatNet project has been slow in the NE region due to capacity of agencies implementing the project, various developmental activities like expansion of national highways by National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), hilly terrain, remote and inaccessible areas, and law and order related issues.
“In the eight states of north-east, there are 12,017 gram panchayats, out of these 7,338 were taken up in phase-I under BharatNet for connecting with high speed optical fibre network. But only 2,240 gram panchayats that are service ready," Sinha said.
The minister informed that 92,000 gram panchayats were connected in the last 18 months across the country in the first phase. “In the second phase, 1,50,000 gram panchayats will be connected by March 2019. The target is tough, but we are hopeful of achieving it by December 2018," he added.
Due to various issues in connecting some remote villages by fibre network, 4,240 gram panchayats in the north-east are to be connected by broadband by satellite by December 2018 and the estimated cost of this will be Rs733 crore, Sinha said.