The government is considering a proposal to spend an additional Rs 25,000 crore over 10 years to provide Wi-Fi services in rural areas. The Department of Telecom and the Ministry of Rural Development are jointly considering extending Wi-Fi services in rural areas using the National Optical Fibre Network, which is being laid to connect 2.5 lakh villages, sources said.
Wi-Fi helps consumers to connect to the internet without using mobile data services. Devices such as tablet computers that have only Wi-Fi connectivity are cheaper than those that can also use cellular data services. It's not yet clear whether this will be part of the existing National Broadband Plan, which is already in the pilot stage in parts of the country.
The programme will use the existing National Optical Fibre Network
The proposal would require a capital expenditure of Rs 3,900 crore, according to an estimate by DoT. Besides, the operational expenditure every year will be Rs 2,060 crore. “The capex will met out of USO (Universal Service Obligation) Fund and operating expenditure will be met by the rural development ministry for a period of 10 years,” an official source said.
The Ministry of Rural Development has said it has no such provision in its budget and will need Cabinet approval to fund the proposal. The next meeting on the proposal is likely to be held in the last week of this month. The Cabinet approved Rs 20,000 crore for the optical fibre network project in 2011 and it is expected to be completed in 2014-15.