Telecom Commission approved in-principle a proposal to set-up high-speed wireless Internet (Wi-fi) hotspots across 2.5 lakh gram panchayats.
The project, entailing capital expenditure of Rs 3,750 crore and operational expenditure Rs 1,860 crore, will be undertaken as part of the ongoing Rs 20,000 crore national optical fibre project (NOFN), official sources said.
As a result, the cost of NOFN is likely to increase to over Rs 25,500 crore, to be funded largely by Universal Service Obligation Fund to which telecom operators contribute about 5% of their Adjusted Gross Revenue.
"TC has given in-principle approval to the project. Now a detailed project report (DPR) will be prepared and then a final approval will be taken," said a source in the Department of Telecom.
As part of the project, termed as Government User Network (GUN), one Wi-fi hotspot and three connections of optic fibre will be provided in every gram panchayat in the country.
The project will also be implemented in three phases like the NOFN and the last phase is likely to be completed by March 2016, the source said.
Under the NOFN project, the government plans to provide broadband speeds of up to 2 megabit per second on the network. Users, with 2 Mbps speed, can download a 600 MB file - about the length of a Bollywood movie - in about 41 minutes.
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 December 2015.