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India to Bring 4G to 24,680 Uncovered Villages

The government is keen on connecting Indian citizens through digital inclusion and earlier this week, the Union Cabinet approved a project for the saturation of 4G mobile services in 24,680 uncovered villages in remote areas of the country.

The total project cost, US $3.3 billion, includes capex and a five-year opex. The initiative also has a provision to include 20% additional villages on account of rehabilitation, new settlements, or withdrawal of services by existing operators, etc. Additionally, 6,279 villages that only have 2G or 3G connectivity will be upgraded to 4G, according to a government statement.

The project will be executed by government-owned telecommunications service provider BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited) using its Atmanirbhar Bharat’s 4G technology stack. It will be funded through the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF). The statement claimed the project is a significant step towards the government’s goal to provide total mobile connectivity in rural areas. Through it, citizens in far-flung parts of India will have access to a variety of e-governance services, banking services, telemedicine products, and online education platforms. This is expected to increase the rate of digital literacy and generate employment in remote parts of the country.

Broadband, especially mobile broadband, has become an integral part of life. Its adoption was accelerated through the rapid expansion of 4G services across the country since 2015. Currently, 800 million subscribers have broadband access, compared to 100 million subscribers in 2014. Last year, the government approved a project to provide 4G mobile services to 7,287 uncovered villages in 44 districts across five states.

Recently, the Minister of Communications and Electronics and Information Technology, Ashwini Vaishnaw, stated that India’s telecom market has the potential to attract new players now that the government has put in place significant reforms and is auctioning the 5G spectrum. According to Vaishnaw, in India, 5G will start later this year. So far, four rounds of the 5G auction have been completed. It is estimated that the revenue generated is around US$ 18.2 billion. “We have to complete this process by August 14 and 5G service in the country will start by September to October,” he said.

5G networks will meet the demand for high-definition videos, virtual reality, and augmented reality, allowing users to download movies, videos, and music in seconds. Apart from high speeds, 5G technology has lower latency than 4G and can better support Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) applications. Countries around the world are heavily investing in and rolling out the technology. Earlier this week, Singapore became the first country in the world to be fully covered by standalone 5G, as telecommunication group Singtel announced it achieved over 95% 5G nationwide coverage, three years ahead of the regulatory target of end-2025. As OpenGov Asia reported, Singtel’s standalone 5G network covers more than 1,300 outdoor locations and over 400 in-building, as well as underground. Singtel was officially awarded the 3.5GHz and the millimetre wave spectrum as part of the 5G licence issued by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) in June 2020, and an additional 2.1GHz spectrum last November.


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