The government will spend Rs. 20,000 crore to provide mobile connectivity in 55,000 villages, which are still untouched by wireless telephony, in the next five years, telecom secretary Rakesh Garg said on tuesday.
Speaking at the first meeting of the Centre and states to deliberate on various initiatives under the Digital India programme, Garg said in the first three years the government will provide mobile connectivity to half of these villages. "It is very important to provide mobile connectivity in all the villages. We will connect up to 55,000 villages, which do not have such a service in the next 5 years and Rs. 20,000 crore has been earmarked for this," he said.
Garg added that according to various estimates, the number of villages that do not have mobile coverage range between 42,000 to 55,000. In 2012, minister of state for communications and IT Milind Deora had told Rajya Sabha that about 57,271 villages in the country are yet to be connected with mobile services, as per the survey carried out by TERM cells of the department of telecommunications.
"We will connect half of these villages in the next 3 years and the remaining in two years. For this purpose the country has been divided into 5 areas and survey of villages is being done to build towers," he said.
The secretary said survey work has been done in North Eastern states and is continuing in the Himalayan states, which will be followed by Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and others.
The amount of Rs. 20,000 crore will come through the Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF), Garg added.
Under the Digital India programme, the government will initially spend Rs. 69,524 crore on various IT and telecom projects.
It has identified broadband and mobile networks as the key growth pillars under Digital India.