Under the PM-WANI framework, entities are neither required to take any license nor pay any fee to the government. PM-WANI will enable the provision of broadband through a distributed architecture and unbundling of functions.
The Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicators reports released by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India puts the number of internet subscribers in rural and urban areas of the country at 336.60 million and 497.69 million respectively as of September 2021 – a total of 834.29 million internet subscribers.
Devusinh Chauhan, minister of state for communications said in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha that the government has worked to provide mobile/broadband/internet services in a phased manner through government and telecom services providers in the uncovered villages of the country in order to enhance digital outreach in the country.
The government, with funding from universal service obligation fund (USOF) is extending mobile connectivity through setting up of towers in the uncovered villages of the country through schemes like the comprehensive telecom development plan for North Eastern Region, left wing extremism (LWE) affected area schemes, aspirational districts schemes and the comprehensive telecom development plan for islands, to name a few, the minister said in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha.
Chauhan said that the BharatNet project is being implemented in a phased manner to provide broadband connectivity to all gram panchayats in the country. The infrastructure created under BharatNet project can further be utilized by service providers for provisioning of broadband and internet services.
The minister said that the scope of BharatNet has been recently extended up to all inhabited villages beyond gram panchayats.
To this end, a national broadband mission (NBM) was launched on 17 December 2019. NBM has a vision to fast-track growth of digital communications infrastructure, bridge the digital divide, facilitate digital empowerment and inclusion, and provide affordable and universal access of broadband for all.
The minister said that the Prime Minister Wireless Access Network Interface (PM-WANI) framework has been introduced to enhance proliferation of broadband services through public Wifi, the minister added. The PM-WANI framework enables provision of broadband through a distributed architecture and unbundling of functions. Under this framework, entities are neither required to take any license nor pay any fee to the government, he said, adding that the details for this have been announced by the government.
Licensed service providers provide broadband services in urban and rural areas of the country as per their business plans. However, the minister said, there are various schemes for the expansion of broadband services in rural and remote areas of the country. These schemes will be supported with funds from USOF under which total fund earmarked / disbursed funds for past five years (till February, 2022) is about Rs 31,529 crores.
According to the minister’s reply, in addition to BharatNet project in Rajasthan, the government has a number of other schemes under USOF for enhancing internet/broadband in the state. These schemes will provide mobile connectivity in 354 uncovered villages, border areas and other priority areas of various states including Rajasthan.
The schemes will also provide 4G mobile connectivity in 502 uncovered villages of aspirational districts in four states, including Rajasthan.
Image: Wikimedia / Biswarup Ganguli