New Delhi: The Union Budget on Thursday proposed an overall allocation of around Rs14,500 crore for the 2018-19 fiscal to augment telecom infrastructure projects, which include an alternate communication network for defence services, in the country.

Unveiling the Union Budget in Parliament, finance minister Arun Jaitley allocated Rs10,000 crore for expansion of telecom infrastructure managed by the Department of Telecom (DoT). In addition to that, the government has also made a provision of Rs4,500 crore for Network for Spectrum project — an alternate communication network being built by the state-run BSNL for defence services in lieu of spectrum given by defence ministry for commercial mobile services.

“I have provided Rs10,000 crore in 2018-19 for creation and augmentation of this telecom infrastructure," he said in his budget speech while referring to work done under government’s Bharat Net project.

As per the document, the government has proposed to allocate Rs8,000 crore for Bharat Net project for providing broadband services in 1.5 lakh gram panchayats. The Bharat Net project aims to connect 2.5 lakh gram panchayats by March 2019. “The task of connecting 1 lakh gram panchayats with high speed optic fibre network has been completed under Phase 1 of Bharat Net Program. This has enabled broadband access to cover ...rural Indians in about 2.5 lakh villages. The government also proposed to set up 5 lakh wi-fi hotspots which will provide broadband access to 5 crore rural citizens," Jaitley said.

The 10,000 crore outlay includes 24 crore for setting up additional 156 towers in naxal-affected area and upgradation of bandwidth at 302 VSAT sites from existing 512 Kbps to 1 Mbps. The finance ministry has proposed to allocate 50 crore for 25,000 wi-fi hotspots in rural areas, 43.29 crore for providing optical fibre cable based connectivity in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep Islands and 00 crore to provide 2,817 mobile towers in 4,119 identified uncovered villages of the North East region.

Jaitley also announced that the DoT will set up test centre for 5th generation telecom technology with IIT Chennai. As per budget document, the FM has proposed to allocate Rs134.48 crore for setting up of the “5G connectivity Test Bed".

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