In a significant advancement for India’s digital infrastructure, the number of Gram Panchayats connected under the BharatNet Program has seen a remarkable increase from 58 in May 2014 to 2.10 lakh as of December 2023. This update was shared by the Minister of State for Communications, Devusinh Chauhan, in the Rajya Sabha on February 9, 2024. The information came in response to a query by RS MP Parimal Nathwani, highlighting the government’s efforts to enhance rural connectivity.
The BharatNet Program has recently undergone amendments to extend its reach to all inhabited villages, with an allocated outlay of Rs 1.88 lakh crore. This initiative aims to create a robust digital network across the country, ensuring widespread access to the internet and telecommunications services.
Additionally, the minister highlighted the swift deployment of 5G services in India, which were launched on October 1, 2022. Within just 14 months, over 4.2 lakh 5G sites have been established, covering 742 districts and marking the fastest 5G rollout globally.
To further improve telecom connectivity, the government has sanctioned 41,160 mobile towers with an investment of Rs 41,331 crore. This project is targeted to provide 4G connectivity to approximately 55 thousand villages, addressing the digital divide and fostering inclusive growth.
The telecom sector has witnessed substantial growth over the past years, with the number of base transceiver stations increasing from 6.49 lakh in May 2014 to 28 lakh in December 2023. The optical fibre network has also expanded significantly, from 10.62 lakh km to 88.12 lakh km, facilitating faster and more reliable internet services across the country. The number of internet users has surged from 25.15 crore in 2014 to 88.12 crore in 2023, accompanied by an increase in median internet speed from 1.3 Mbps to 75.8 Mbps. Notably, the cost of data has dramatically reduced from Rs 269 per Gb in 2014 to Rs 9.94 per Gb in 2023, making internet access more affordable for the masses.
The BharatNet Program’s amendment includes the upgradation of the existing network, emphasis on network utilization through village level entrepreneurs (BharatNet Udyamis), operation and maintenance of the network, a dedicated Network Operation Centre, and an expansion to connect all inhabited villages. The program also aims to provide 1.5 crore home fibre connections, further enhancing India’s digital infrastructure and connectivity. Vibes Of India