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Fibre optic for everyone in India?

Indian press reports suggest that the country’s government is planning to provide nearly 500,000 fibre-to-home connections by September this year.

Underpinning this plan is BharatNet, an ambitious government initiative to connect the entire country with fibre optic cable at the panchayat, or village council, level. The Ministry of Electronics and IT’s rural network of 400,000 Common Service Centres (CSCs) has rolled out the facility after the Department of Telecommunications charged it to take the BharatNet fibre optic network to every last mile in the country.

That will take some time, however. Most of the connections so far are said to be in three states — Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. BharatNet has reportedly provided 50,000 fibre connections in the last month, the majority to government institutions. An estimated 50,000 rural public Wi-Fi hotspots using the optical fibre have also been set up.

The CSCs are now branching out, according to reports, moving on from 100,000 panchayats to institutions in surrounding villages, such as government schools, police stations, CSC offices and post offices, along with providing connections to individual customers on demand.

And demand certainly exists; there was a nearly 100 per cent jump in data consumption for rural India in March. However, much of this would have been mobile-led. Indeed, as we mentioned in June, India has, according to some estimates, only 19 million fixed line broadband users. This figure is made up of enterprises and offices and 17 million home fixed line broadband users. Fibre optic for everyone in India is still some way off.

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