In a move to sharpen accountability and bring stability to internet services in rural areas, BBNL is planning to take over operations and maintenance work of optical fibre-based infrastructure being laid under BharatNet project, a top official said.
"In events when my system is down, I am dependent on BSNL at present. Entire maintenance of fibre under BharatNet is done by BSNL. We are in the process of taking over maintenance of incremental fibre that we have laid. We have moved to USOF (universal service obligation fund) and asked for permission," BBNL Chairman and MD Sarvesh Singh told PTI.
Bharat Broadband Nigam Limited (BBNL) had allocated around 70 per cent of rural broadband network roll-out work to BSNL and about 15 per cent of work to Railtel and Powergrid each.
BBNL utilised existing 2 lakh kilometer of optical fibre of BSNL and laid incremental fibre of around 3 lakh kilometer to connect over 1.27 lakh gram panchayats (GPs) with high speed broadband network.
The project, which started in 2011, has missed several deadlines to connect 2.5 lakh panchayats. The last deadline was March 2019.
While 1.19 lakh GPs have been service-ready, often most of the networks have been found to be non-functional.
BSNL has the onus of preventive and corrective maintenance of the optical fibre portion connecting gram panchayats but the responsibility of remaining network elements lay with other agencies. Due to this multi-vendor system and lack of mechanism to precisely locate fault, BharatNet network suffers in most of the GPs.
"We have hired 800 people on contract to maintain the network," Singh said.
BBNL has completed network rollout in 1.25 lakh GPs under phase 1 in December 2018.
Singh said that BBNL's priority is to complete roll out of broadband services in the rest of 1.25 lakh panchayats at the earliest and then start laying entire fibre infrastructure on its own in the third phase.
"Our objective is to build infrastructure, we are still at 45 per cent level. We have to reach 2.5 lakh. First we want to complete the work," Singh said.
In phase 2, BBNL has partnered with eight states - Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Telangana, who will roll out broadband network in rural area on their own.
"Around 50 per cent of GPs are with states where they will roll out broadband network, 33 per cent is with BSNL. We have approved contract of BSNL for around of half of GPs to be covered by it and will seek resubmission of detailed project report for the remaining," Singh said.
He said that the project has been delayed mainly because of right of way issue across states and mostly in forest area.
"Right of way have been resolved to large extent with states coming on board. We now expect expeditious roll out of BharatNet," Singh said.