India plans telecom links in all villages by 2014

State-owned telco BSNL to set up telecommunication links including Internet in all Indian villages to bring e-services to rural, far-flung areas, report says.

Indian state-owned telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) said it will establish telecommunication links including Internet connectivity in all villages by 2014 to help bring basic e-services to populations in rural, far-flung areas in the country.

The Times Of India reported Sunday, quoting BSNL Chairman and managing director R.K. Upadhyaya as saying the two-year project to create a National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) will cost 20 billion rupees (US$3.9 billion). "Once the NOFN was created, it would help in offering governance, banking and health and other basic services online up to the villages and rural areas."

The tele-density in urban areas in India is almost 100 percent but only 37 percent in the rural areas, said Upadhyaya. The NOFN will help the tele-density in rural areas to "a great extent", he added.

BSNL accounts for about 80 percent of landline and 90 percent of broadband connections in India, and around 30 percent of the nation's mobile connections, according to the executive.

The company has other projects to boost the telecommunications connectivity in India's northeastern region by upgrading the existing optical fiber cable (OFC) network with Power Grid Corporation of India Limited and RailTel cable network, the Times Of India reported.

BSNL's announcement comes after the country's finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, during his budget speech earlier this month, emphasized bridging India's digital divide by increasing the penetration of rural broadband connectivity.

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