The Rs 20,000 crore National Optical Fire Network (NOFN) will be rolled in a phased manner, with the first one slated to provide broadband connectivity to 1 lakh gram panchayats by March 31, 2014.
The inter-ministerial Telecom Commission, which is the highest decision-making body of the Department of Telecom, has approved the proposal to cover 2.5 lakh gram panchayats by 2015 at a recently held meeting here, sources said.
The government has been deferring the completion date of NOFN roll out from the initial target of December, 2012. It was pushed back to December 2013 and now the project is expected to be completed by September 2015.
According to sources, the Telecom Commission has approved 3-phase implementation of NOFN. While one lakh gram panchayats are to be covered in the first phase up to March 31, 2014, two lakh gram panchayats will be completed by March 31, 2015. The rest will be covered by September 30, 2015.
The estimated cost for the first phase is about Rs 11,148 crore. The Cabinet will take a final call on the matter.
Priority is expected to be given to villages in the North East and 88 Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected districts, in the first phase.
After the completion of NOFN project, village panchayats are expected to get broadband connectivity with high speed of up to 100 megabits per second.
The project is being financed by Universal Service Obligation Fund at an estimated cost of Rs 20,100 crore. USOF derives its funds from all mobile operators which deposit with it 5 per cent of their adjusted gross revenue every year.
Bharat Broadband Network Ltd, special purpose vehicle set up by the government for national broadband implementation, had recently floated tenders for optical fibre network and broadband equipments.
BBNL is responsible for the rollout of the project, that is to be executed by BSNL, RailTel and Power Grid.