-- K N Gupta, Former executive director, Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT)
The rural telecommunication target will be set at reaching 40 per cent rural teledensity in the next five years and expanding broadband coverage to connect every panchayat to a broadband network in three years.
The scheme for common service centres or e-kiosks will be suitably repositioned to be a network of panchayat-level Bharat Nirman Common Service Centres to provide government services to citizens in rural areas.
In today's context, telephony means both voice and high-speed data. While planning for rural coverage, the government should consider various technologies like satellite, wireless, cellular and optical fiber.
There are villages in India with much varied terrain, from very inaccessible to easily accessible. Also, the population of Indian villages varies widely, from less than 20 people to a few thousand people per village. Therefore, no single technology/solution will suit all.
Overhead lines should not be deployed as they are not suitable for rural areas due to higher initial cost, higher maintenance charges and poor reliability.
We should consider new revolutionary technologies suitable to our situation. For example, a very promising technology which is about a few years old is communication services on power transmission lines, since all villages are electrified or are in the process of getting electrified as per plans of state governments. Availability of power on these lines does not affect communication services.
For villages with very hard physical terrain and with very low population, satellite may be the only option. In such cases, call charges may require subsidies from the government.
The ultimate goal should be 'Fiber to each Village'. This has been achieved in China about five years ago. We can also achieve this.
(Negi spoke to Avishek Dastidar)