State owned telecom operator BSNL will provide broadband connectivity to all districts and blocks in the country by March 2009.
The telco has so far provided broadband connections to 95 per cent of all district headquarters and approximately 44 per cent of the blocks. It also plans to extend broadband coverage to 1.48 lakh villages in the next six months compared to only 30,000 villages at present (See: BSNL brings 30,500 villages under broadband)
BSNL's broadband already covers 3,261 cities, which will be further expanded to 5,000 cities by March next year.
Communications and IT minister A Raja recently said that the government will initially connect 5,000 blocks by wireless broadband soon after the allocation of the spectrum, with support from the USO fund.
Villages coming within a radius of 10km of al block headquarter will be provided broadband speeds. This will benefit many institutional users like schools, public health centers, village panchayats and the community service centres meant to further propvide e-governance facilities and data services to the rural areas.
In order to promote expansion of rural wire line and wire line based broadband services, the centre has waived-off license fees for rural wire line and BSNL hopes to replicate its success of providing shared mobile infrastructure in providing wireless broadband connectivity.
BSNL has 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 (See: Six telecom vendors bid for BSNL's $9-billion GSM lines contract). 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 Rs110 to Rs75. The Plan applies to exchange systems having capacity between 1,000 and 29,999 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 Rs120 to Rs99. (Also see: BSNL offers rural landline connectivity at Rs20 per month)
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 per cent of the villages through its WLL network.
The ccentre has a target of 500 million telephone connections by 2010 and 750 million connections by 2012. The government says providing telecom facilities in the rural and remote areas remains a high priority.