State owned telecom operator BSNL is to extend broadband facility to all districts and Blocks of the country by March 2009. At present, it has covered about 95 percent of the District Headquarters and about 44 percent of the Blocks. The Company also plans to extend broadband coverage to 1.48 lakh villages in the next six months compared to only 30000 villages now. BSNL’s broadband already covers 3261 cities, which will be further expanded to 5000 cities by March next year.
The Communications and IT Minister Thiru A Raja recently announced that government will initially connect 5000 blocks by wireless broadband soon after the allocation of the spectrum, with support from the USO fund. Villages coming within a radius of 10 Kms. of the Block Headquarter shall be covered by such connectivity. This will benefit many institutional users like schools, public health centers, Village Panchayats and the Community Service Centers (CSCs) meant to provide E-Governance and Data services to the rural areas. BSNL will play a major role in providing the wireless broadband connectivity as it has done in the case of the shared mobile infrastructure scheme. In order to promote expansion of rural wire line and wire line based broadband services, Government has recently decided to waive off the license fees for rural wire line
BSNL has already floated zonal tenders with plans to procure 93 million lines to extend coverage of GSM mobile services to all the villages in the country having more than 1000 population. The procurement of the lines will be done in a phased manner. Through this expansion, BSNL will also introduce value added services like mobile TV, mobile broadband, MMS, location based services etc.
In order to boost telephony in rural areas, BSNL recently introduced a tariff plan called ‘Gramin 75’, under which fixed monthly charges have been reduced from Rs.110 to Rs.75. The Plan applies to exchange systems having capacity between 1000 and 29999 lines. Fixed monthly charges of Sulabh Plan under Fixed/WLL service in exchange system of more than 29,999 lines have also been reduced from Rs. 120 to Rs. 99.
BSNL is already providing telephones to five and half lakh villages across the country. It has extended 11 million GSM connections in the rural areas. The company’s GSM coverage has reached out to about 2,56,000 villages, which means over 43 percent of the total number of villages. Besides, it covers 75 percent of the villages through its WLL network. The UPA government has kept a target of 500 million telephone connections by 2010 and 750 million connections by 2012. Provision of telecom facilities in the rural and remote areas remains a high priority for the government.