GUWAHATI, Jan 16 - The Centre is initiating projects worth over Rs 10,700 crore for improving telecom connectivity in the northeastern region.
Addressing a press conference here today, Minister of State for Communications (Independent Charge) Manoj Sinha said that telecom connectivity is a big problem in the Northeast due to factors related to geography, climate and logistics.
�The Central government had identified various solutions, but due to various reasons these could not be completed. Now, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has initiated projects worth Rs 10,749 crore for the Northeast. Most of these projects will be completed by December this year,� Sinha said.
The amount, which is about one-eighth of the total investment planned by the DoT nationwide, is likely to be enhanced to Rs 15,000 crore for the Northeast soon, he added.
Sinha said that as part of the initiatives, the Centre is rolling out a Comprehensive Telecom Development Project at an estimated cost of Rs 5,336.31 crore.
�In 8,621 villages and along the national highways in the Northeast, a total of 6,673 mobile towers will be set up to provide connectivity and an MoU has been signed between BSNL and Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) for this purpose,� the minister said.
Out of these, 2,817 mobile towers will be set up by BSNL in Arunachal Pradesh and two districts of Assam, while the work of erecting another 2,004 towers in other parts of the Northeast has been initiated by Bharti Airtel in December 2017 and will be completed in 18 months.
Sinha also dedicated the �Asthamangal Project�, implemented by BSNL, to the nation and said special focus of the scheme would be towards the citizens of the northeastern states.
Under this project, alternate bandwidth of 810 Gbps at a cost of about Rs 35 crore has been provided by BSNL using reliable connectivity through optical power ground wire (OPGW) of Power Grid Corporation of India for all state headquarters and other important locations of the Northeast. The total bandwidth provided is 810 Gbps under this project. With implementation of this project, connectivity in the region has improved and the people have benefited by getting reliable telecom services.
Sinha, who earlier in the day participated in a conference on implementation of �BharatNet� and other major projects in the Northeast, said that the region is of highest priority for the Central government. The progress of the BharatNet project has been slow in the Northeast due various reasons, he said, adding that the focus would now be to speed it up.
�In the eight states of the Northeast, there are 12,017 gram panchayats, and out of these 7,338 were taken up in phase I under BharatNet for connecting with high-speed optical fibre network. But only 2,240 gram panchayats are service ready,� he said.
Sinha said due to various issues in connecting some remote villages by fibre network, 4,240 gram panchayats in the Northeast are to be connected through broadband by satellite by December 2018 at an estimated project cost of Rs 733 crore.