Centre Considering Winding Up BBNL And Transferring BharatNet Task To BSNL: Report

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Jan 7, 2022 11:22 AM
Centre Considering Winding Up BBNL And Transferring BharatNet Task To BSNL: Report
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  • As per the report, the centre is considering winding up the Bharat Broadband Network (BBNL) and allocating its job to state-owned telecom provider BSNL.

    Previously, BBNL had restricted BSNL's ability to maintain the BharatNet project and the involvement of BSNL in phase II of BharatNet was also reduced by more than half.

The centre is considering winding up the Bharat Broadband Network (BBNL), which was set up nearly a decade ago as a special purpose company to connect gram panchayats with high-speed optic fibre, and allocating its job to state-owned telecom provider Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), according to a recent report.

The BharatNet project is being implemented by BBNL, with the Universal Service Obligation Fund having been disbursed close to Rs 24,000 crore. So far, 1.71 lakh gram panchayats are interconnected out of the country's 2.5 lakh gram panchayats.

In July of last year, it was decided to expand the scope of the BharatNet project by opting to connect all 6 lakh villages in the country with optic fibre, for which the government would contribute Rs 19,041 crore in viability gap funding. The overall cost of the BharatNet project has now reached Rs 61,109 crore, including the Rs 42,068 crore authorised in 2017.

BharatNet started out as the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN), which was launched in 2011 as a "middle mile" project with the goal of extending the existing optical cable fibre network from Block Headquarters to 2.5 lakh gram panchayats across the country.

However, in the current scenario, the Financial Express reported that according to some sources, the notion of transferring BBNL’s functions to BSNL was floated a few months ago, and four to five meetings have been held to finalise the details. However, the report noted that the work of laying optic fibre for BBNL could be done by BSNL, but since the latter is a telecom provider that competes with commercial telecom firms, questions of fair play may arise.

Previously, BBNL had restricted BSNL's ability to maintain the BharatNet project. The BharatNet fibre used to be maintained by BSNL for roughly Rs 400 crore per year. But after it failed to offer adequate services, BBNL did not renew the contract and instead granted it to CSC SPV—CSC e-Governance Services India Limited is a Special Purpose Vehicle established by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, under the Companies Act, 1956, to monitor the execution of the Common Services Centers Scheme.

The involvement of BSNL in phase II of BharatNet was also reduced by more than half. One of the causes was a shift in implementation strategy, which included the involvement of state agencies, which was not the case in the first phase.

Three central public sector units — BSNL, RailTel and PGCIL — implemented Phase 1 of the project, which connected 1 lakh gram panchayats, with BSNL doing the majority of the work.

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