The government is making efforts to double the reach of telecom network in the country by 2020, Telecom Secretary Aurna Sundararajan said on Thursday. "By 2020, we must aim at a minimum doubling of telecom footprint if we really want to have the kind of growth that we have," Sundararajan said in her speech at a Ficci event. She called upon all stakeholders in the country -- central and state governments, local authorities and the industry -- to facilitate laying out of optical fibre in the country for delivering high-speed broadband services. "Whether it is smart cities, 5G, IoT (Internet of Things), we need (optical) fibre. Fibre first programme in this country is a national imperative and we must start working together," Sundararajan said. The government is working on telecom projects worth of Rs 1 lakh crore, which will be completed in the next two years, including phase 1 of Bharat Net. "We have 83,000 village panchayats that have optic fibre network in place.
Bharat Net phase 1 will be completed by December," Sundararajan said. The government is pushing ahead with Bharat Net project rollout to connect all 2.5 lakh village panchayats with the optical fibre cable (OFC) network by March 2019. The Department of Telecom is also working to float a tender to provide wifi services in all panchayats by 2019. The government expects to start broadband services with about 1,000 megabit per second or 1 gbps across 1 lakh gram panchayats by the end of this year under the project. According to the telecom secretary, there are a lot of anomalies in policies at various levels that need to be aligned for speedy rollout of the digital infrastructure. She cited a report saying every 1.3 per cent increase in broadband penetration leads to 1 per cent increase in GDP (gross domestic product), but in the case of India, it has resulted in 3.3 per cent increase in GDP. She hoped that with Bharat Net, every village will have OFC capability. "We have started working with service providers to make sure wired broadband reaches home. This is an area where a lot of work have to be done in India. We know in urban India not many people have wired broadband at home, but this is one of the areas where rural area will perhaps be in a better position than urban India," Sundararajan said. She added that for the last 10 years, people have been counting how many kilometres of roads had been built, but now it is important to count kilometres of OFC laid in the country for growth.