Bharat Broadband Network
|Founded||25 February 2012|
|Sarvesh Singh (Chairman & MD)|
|Owner||Department of Telecommunications|
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
BharatNet, also known as Bharat Broadband Network Limited, is a telecom infrastructure provider, set up by the Government of India under the Department of Telecommunications for the establishment, management, and operation of the National Optical Fibre Network to provide a minimum of 100 Mbit/s broadband connectivity to all 250,000 gram panchayats in the country, covering nearly 625,000 villages, to improve telecommunications in India and reach the campaign goal of Digital India. The last mile connectivity, with a total of 700,000 Wi-Fi hotspots to cover all 625,000 villages of India by adding 2 to 5 Wi-Fi hotspots per gram panchayat and a minimum of one Wi-Fi hotspot per village, have been created by connecting high-speed 4G base tower stations of commercial telecom operators to BharatNet, whereby commercially non-viable Wi-Fi hotspots will be subsidised by the union government grant of ₹36 billion (equivalent to ₹41 billion, US$570 million or €520 million in 2019) to sustain the operation. The government has discounted the bulk BharatNet bandwidth rates to the commercial telecom operators by 76% to enable them to offer the highly discounted, affordable, competitive, and commercially viable BharatNet-enabled wireless cellular 4G broadband deals to the rural customers. The ₹450 billion (equivalent to ₹510 billion, US$7.1 billion or €6.6 billion in 2019) union government share of funding will come from the Universal Services Obligation Fund of the Department of Telecommunications. It will be rolled out with the additional funding by state governments to connect all gram panchayats in India. BharatNet is the world's largest rural broadband connectivity program. It is built under the Make in India initiative with no involvement of foreign companies.
BharatNet will provide more employment opportunities, improved service delivery (online e-gram panchayat services, e-governance, e-education, e-health, e-medicine, e-grievances, e-agriculture, e-citizen, etc.), and an impetus to the Make in India, Digital India and Startup India initiatives. According to Morgan Stanley's research, of India's 33% internet penetration in November 2017 only 15% and 2% of total internet users use online shopping and retail shopping respectively, estimated to go up to 78% penetration, 62% online shoppers and 15% online retail shopper respectively by 2027. As per study by the ICRIER, every 10% increase in the usage of internet in India will add ₹4.5 trillion (equivalent to ₹5.1 trillion, US$71 billion or €66 billion in 2019) leading to a 3.3% increase in GDP of India, a number that will go up after the completion of Phase-II in March 2019. By the end of BharatNet Phase-II in March 2019, the total current fibre optical network will grow by 100% to 10 million kilometres. This 100% increment in the fibre optic network would result in several hundred percent increment in the internet usage when in addition to 625,000 villages (each with minimum 100 Mbit/s), 2,500,000 government institutions and 5,000,000 households will also be connected to the BharatNet broadband by 2020, by adding several hundred million more broadband users to the current figures of 276.5 million wireless and wireline broadband connections out of total of 422.2 million internet users on 31 March 2017.
BharatNet Phase-I, connecting 100,000 village councils covering 300,000 villages, was completed by December 2017. BharatNet Phase-II will be completed by 31 March 2019 to connect the remaining 150,000 village councils covering 325,000 villages. As of 31 December 2018, India had a population of 1.3 billion people, 1.23 billion Aadhaar digital biometric identities, 1.21 billion mobile phones, 446 million smartphones, 560 million internet users up from 481 million people (35% of the country's total population) in December 2017, and 51% growth in e-commerce.
It is both an enabler and a beneficiary of other key government schemes, such as Digital India, Make in India, the National e-Governance Plan, UMANG, Bharatmala, Sagarmala, the dedicated freight corridors, industrial corridors, and UDAN-RCS.
On 25 October 2011, the Government of India approved the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) initiative, later renamed as BharatNet, to connect all 250,000 gram panchayats in the country covering nearly 625,000 villages, by utilising the existing optical fibre network and extending it to the gram panchayats. To achieve this, Bharat Broadband Network was incorporated as a Special Purpose Vehicle(SPV) on 25 February 2012 under Companies Act of 1956. Between 2011 and 2014, project did not take off as planned, and only 350 km of optical fibre, out of 300,000 km optical fibre network needed for the Phase-I, was laid. Between 2014 and 2017, the original Phase-I target of laying 300,000 km of optical fibre was completed under the new BJP government.
The BharatNet project picked up pace under Digital India initiative after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, he renamed the project as the "BharatNet", made several changes to expedite the project, significantly enhanced the BharatNet funding to several billion dollars under the Digital India, set ambitious time-bound implementations deadlines, appointed government public sector units (BSNL, RailTel and PowerGrid Corp) for the swift implementation and monitoring, and to bypass the right of way issues for laying the optical fibre cable network the existing government-owned roads, rail lines and power lines were used. Bangalore based United Telecoms Limited won the bid, being almost 80% lower to the second lowest bidder ITI followed by Tejas, Sterlite, etc. BharatNet collaborated with other government entities such as C-DOT, Telecommunications Consultants India Limited and National Informatics Centre for the design and rollout plan of BharatNet NOFN Project. BharatNet assigned the execution work of network roll out to several other Government of India Public Sector Units, namely BSNL, RailTel and Power Grid Corporation of India. Project was rolled out as a collaboration between the Union Government (to provide broadband connectivity at sub-district Block-level), state governments (optical fibre to gram panchayat level) and private sector companies (Wi-Fi hotspots in each village and connections to the individual homes). Union government total share is ₹450 billion (equivalent to ₹510 billion, US$7.1 billion or €6.6 billion in 2019), the rest will be funded by the respective state governments.
Once all the gram panchayats have been connected by the dedicated fibre optical network, the last mile connectivity to all villages will be provided by the commercial telecom operators by expanding the current national network of 38,000 Wi-Fi hotspots to 700,000 Wi-Fi hotspots to cover all 625,000 villages in India. ₹36 billion (equivalent to ₹41 billion, US$570 million or €520 million in 2019), union government subsidy support will be given to the telecom service operators for rolling out Wi-Fi hotspots in commercially non-vialble villages. BharatNet has offered the bulk broadband bandwidth at 75% discounted rates to the commercial telecom operators so that they can offer deeply discounted monetised competitive deals to the rural wireless broadband customers. Commercial operators Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone have already connected their 4G-based-broadband base towers to BharatNet at various locations to provide the high speed last mile wireless broadband connectivity.
There are 36 states and union territories of India, including 28 states and 9 UTs. BSNL was awarded work for 18 of these, RailTel received work in 8 and Power Grid Corporation of India in 5. BSNL was awarded work for 18+ states and UTs, namely Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh (divided into two projects, UP East and UP West), Uttarakhand and West Bengal. RailTel was awarded work for 8+ states and UTs, namely Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Puducherry and Tripura. Power Grid Corporation of India was awarded work for 5 states, namely Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Telangana. Delhi is included with Phase-I BSNL work for Haryana. Goa is also included with Phase-I BSNL work for Maharastra. Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu are included with Phase-II work for RailTel. Tripura is likely included with Phase-II RailTel work for the Northeast India.
- Gigabit passive optical network (GPON) technology at the national level:
Passive optical network network architecture brings fibre cabling and digital signals to the homes, using the point-to-multipoint communication design that enables a single optical fibre to serve multiple premises. Design based on the ITU standard G.984 and TEC spec GR no.PON-01/02 Apr 2008 provides higher bandwidth and efficiency due to the bigger variable-length network packets, allowing more efficient packaging of user traffic with segmented frame, offering higher quality of service (QoS) and low latency for delay-sensitive voice and video traffic.
- Optical line terminal at subdistrict block level:
OLT device installed at each Block (district subdivision) will serve as the BharatNet's national-level service provider's endpoint of a passive optical network and perform conversion between the electrical signals used by the service provider's equipment and the fibre optic signals used by the passive optical network.
- Optical fibre cable to each gram panchayat:
The connectivity from OLT at Subdistrict-Block-level to each gram panchayat is provided by the optical fibre point of presence. Optical fibre technology provides high bandwidth, low maintenance and a scalable network but requires time to roll out the physical network. End-to-end encryption is used to ensure the data security in this shared network.
- Beam splitters and combiners:
The beam splitter (downstream; upstream is called the "combiner") is an optical device that splits a beam of light in two, thus providing ability to connect multiple gram panchayats along the way to the single optical fibre cable. Use of the "passive" (unpowered) fibre optic splitter reduces the operational cost of equipment compared to the point-to-point technology (Wi-Fi, requires power).
- Optical network terminals at gram panchayat level:
ONT, also called ONU, are the devices that transmit signals to the customer premises (each gram panchayat in this case) using fibre optic technology in a fibre-to-the-premises system. BharatNet will sign contracts with internet service provider (ISP) telecom companies to set up Wi-Fi hotspots (connected to fibre optic network via ONT), and also to provide optical fibre connections to the individual houses or institutes needing relatively much higher speed dedicated connection. As throughput requirements of a village, institute, or house increase, they will require dedicated fibre optical connections instead of village-level shared Wi-Fi. Each house or institute with dedicated fibre optical connection will also require its own ONT installed by the service provider, though within the house or institute they can have their own Wi-Fi setup. A Common Service Centre panchayat kiosk for the online government e-services will be provided at each gram panchayat level.
- Hotspot (Wi-Fi) at each village-level within the gram panchayat:
Each gram panchayat is connected by the low-maintenance fibre optic technology, and each village under the gram panchayat is connected by a Wi-Fi hotspot tower of up to 15-metre height with a range of 5 to 7 km installed by ISP telecom companies by using short-range 5.48 GHz unused radio frequency. Comparatively easier and faster to deploy higher-maintenance wireless technology, for Wi-Fi Hotspots in each village under the gram panchayat, is used only for the last mile connectivity. Wi-Fi router and Antenna require continuous supply of power, hence an emergency power system is needed during the power blackout, e.g. power inverter with a backup battery that may be recharged by the solar panel. Reliance Jio, Idea Cellular, Airtel and Vodafone have already connected their 4G Base Towers to BharatNet fibre optic OLT to provide last mile wireless coverage.
- Connectivity to the individual homes:
The Local service providers provide broadband connections to individual homes, offering employment and entrepreneurship opportunities to village youth.
Make in India
Both the optical fibre and the Gigabit-capable passive optical network broadband equipment, made to account for the dust and power outage issues in the rural areas, are made in India by C-DOT with no involvement of foreign companies.
There are 245,000 villages across 36 states and union territories of India. Phase-I, which connected 100,000 villages, was completed in December 2017. Remaining villages will be connected under Phase-II by December 2018.
BharatNet Phase-I (Dec 2017)
BharatNet Phase-I, across 13 states and UTs was completed in December 2017 with the Phase-I union government funding share of ₹110 billion (equivalent to ₹120 billion, US$1.7 billion or €1.6 billion in 2019). It connected 100,000 gram panchayat, covering 300,000 villages by laying 300,000 km of optical fibre network. 13 states and UTs in this phase are: Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Delhi, Goa, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Manipur, Meghalaya, Puducherry, Sikkim and West Bengal. As of 31 December 2017, BSNL has laid 11,005 km optical fibre cable and completed the connection of out of all targeted 6,017 gram panchayats in Haryana.
Last mile connectivity
The central government will set up sufficient Wi-Fi hotspots to cover 100 million citizens by 2020, and tender will be floated for this soon (as of November 2017). Additionally, Indian Railway will provide Wi-Fi hotspots, limited free access and unlimited paid access, at 600 major stations by March 2018 and all of its 8,500 stations by March 2019 with an outlay of ₹7 billion (US$98 million), with 1,200 large stations catering to the rail passengers and the remaining 7,300 stations catering to both rail passengers and local population in remote and rural areas, including facilities to access government services or e-purchase of commercial products (c. 7 Jan 2018).
The last mile connectivity for the 100,000 gram panchayats in Phase-I, contracts have been already signed to connect 30,500 village panchayats by Vodafone, 30,000 village panchayats by Reliance Jio. 2,000 by Vodafone and 1,000 by Idea Cellular, and 15,000 (November 2017 figure) of these Wi-Fi hotspots have been already activated after connecting BharatNet fibre optics OLT to commercial operator's cell phone base stations, resulting in activation of broadband services in more than 48,000 villages and over 75,000 villages are ready for the services (November 2017 figure). (Latest weekly update)
HRD ministry has instructed 50,000 colleges and technical in India to offer free Wi-Fi to students and staff with capped free data quota, after which data will have to be purchased. Out of these Reliance Jio has offered to deploy free Wi-Fi connectivity to 38,000 colleges, which has been supported by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
BharatNet Phase-II (Dec 2018)
BharatNet Phase-II, to be completed by 31 March 2019 (unofficial target date 31 Dec 2018), will connect the remaining nearly 145,000 gram panchayats covering 325,000 villages through additional 1 million km of optical fibre. Phase-II commenced with the union government funding share of ₹340 billion (equivalent to ₹380 billion, US$5.4 billion or €5.0 billion in 2019), with the current 250 km per day pace of optical fibre network roll out which needs to be raised to 500 km per day to achieve the completion target of March 2019. Roll out will be expedited with November 2017 memorandum of understanding with seven more states, namely Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Telangana. Phase-II will double the total optical fibre network of the nation and will generate 100,000,000 mandays employment for the roll out.
DoT will invest ₹107.43 billion (US$1.5 billion) on BharatNet in Northeast India by December 2018, including erecting 6,673 towers to connect 8,621 villages at the cost of ₹533.6 billion (US$7.5 billion) and additional 4,240 gram panchayats by satellite broadband connectivity by December 2018.
National Optical Fibre Network
The National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) is a project initiated in 2011 and funded by Universal Service Obligation Fund to provide broadband connectivity to over 200,000 gram panchayats of India at an initial cost of ₹200 billion (US$2.8 billion). It aimed at using existing fibre optical network of Central utilities - BSNL, RailTel and Power Grid - to provide internet connectivity to gram panchayats. The project intended to enable the government of India to provide e-services and e-applications nationally. A special purpose vehicle Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) was created as a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Companies Act of 1956 for the execution of the project. The GPON order for BBNL to connect 200,000 villages was awarded to United Telecoms Limited (UTL). It was estimated to be completed by the end of 2013, but was revised to September 2015 by the UPA government.
The Indian government approved a cabinet note on the scheme to create the National Optical Fibre Network dated 25 October 2011. The implementation framework, budget, technology architecture and other issues related to NOFN were worked out by a high level committee constituted by the Department of Telecom (DoT) under the chairmanship of an adviser to the Prime Minister and Chairman UIDAI (constituted on 26 April 2011). The Special-Purpose Vehicle Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) was incorporated to execute the project, implemented by three prominent Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), namely BSNL, RailTel and Power Grid. To grant right of way, a draft tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) among the government of India, the SPV and the State governments of India was sent to the state governments and Union Territories for their concurrence.
The Office of Adviser announced they would work on applications for rural broadband in collaboration with Ministries of Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, HRD, Health and the Prime Minister's National Council on Skill Development so that even as hardware connectivity is under progress, applications also get addressed. Building public information infrastructure requires coordination between the geographical information system plan, UIDAI, National Informatics Centre and others to build platforms, applications, and portals which include developing India's version of Data.gov under the aegis of the Department of Information Technology.
The National Informatics Centre (NIC) was assigned a project by DOT/USOF for geographic information system (GIS) mapping of the existing OFC network of the various telecom operators such BSNL, Rail Tel, Power Grid, etc. The mapping of the existing OFC will enable to calculate the incremental length of the cable required for connecting all the 250,000 panchayats with OFC. The State Government will have the role of providing free Right of Way (RoW) for laying OFC. The project envisaged signing a tripartite MoU for free Right of Way (RoW) among the Union Government, State Government and Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL).
16 States and Union Territories signed the MoUs on 26 October 2012. These states and Union Territories were Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Manipur, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and 3 Union Territories viz. Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, and Puducherry. Under the MoUs, 140727-gram panchayaths will be facilitated with Optical Fibre Network in these States and Union Territories. Tripartite MoU were signed with other ten states and Union Territories on 12 April 2013. These states and Union Territories were Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Odisha, Punjab, and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. In these states and Union Territories, overall 85731-gram panchayaths will get covered by Optical Fibre Network.
In February 2016 it was reported that the target which was to connect 150,000 panchayats by 2015 was incomplete as cables could only be laid in about 32,000-gram panchayats across the country.
As on 10 January 2017, ten days past the deadline, only 27.55% GPs (gram panchayats) were covered as per the data from performance dashboard of the Government. No announcement was made for any deadline extension or fresh targets, with demonetization taking the limelight in November and December 2016.
Pilots are being tried in Ajmer in Rajasthan, Vishakhapatnam and Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh, Panisagar in Tripura, Thane & Jalka Shahpur to test the broadband infrastructure and adoption after being approved by MCIT. Universal Service Obligation Fund (DOT), BBNL, BSNL, Rail Tel, Power Grid and Telecom Players, USPs and content providers, along with State Governments, are working on the Pilot Trials.
All the service providers like telecom service providers (TSPs), ISPs, cable TV operators, etc. will be given non-discriminatory access to the National Optic Fibre Network and can launch various services in rural areas. Various categories of applications like e-health, e-education, and e-governance. can also be provided by these operators. The project is proposed to be completed in two years and the nationwide rollout was expected as early as 2014.
National Optic Fibre Network uses gigabit passive optical network (GPON) products supplied by United Telecoms Limited (UTL) which are manufactured in India and the technology is indigenously developed by Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT).
A passive optical network (PON) brings fibre cabling and signals to the home using a point-to-multipoint scheme that enables a single optical fibre to serve multiple premises. Encryption maintains data security in this shared environment. The architecture uses passive (unpowered) optical splitters, reducing the cost of equipment compared to point-to-point architectures.
The GPON standard differs from other passive optical network standards in that it achieves higher bandwidth and higher efficiency using larger, variable-length packets. GPON offers efficient packaging of user traffic, with frame segmentation allowing higher quality of service (QoS) for delay-sensitive voice and video communications traffic. The main components of GPON technology are OLT, ONT/ONU, Splitters and Optical Fibre Cables. The ITU standard G-984 series as well as TEC spec GR no.PON-01/02 Apr 2008 define the GPON technology. C-DOT has also inked technology transfer pacts with six Indian vendors which include Indian Telephone Industries Limited (ITI Ltd), Tejas Networks, VMC, Sai Systems, UTL and SM Creative to manufacture the gear on winning the contracts. UTL emerged as the competitive bid winner and obtained the GPON supply contract for a value of approximately Rs 1000 Cr. The companies like ITI Ltd, Tejas Networks, Sterlite, ZTE and Larsen & Toubro lost this deal to UTL. The rollout of GPON is being carried out and it is expected that by March 2015 around 60000 villages will be connected.
As of November 2018, the number of gram panchayats where the BBNL is available until the block is 1,09,000. However, it is claimed elsewhere that over 150,000 villages have fibre connectivity. But Most of the time Fiber internet service in many areas remains Down.
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