November 19, 2021
The Cabinet cleared utilization of the USOF to provide mobile connectivity in 7,287 uncovered villages across five states
The move is in line with the National Broadband Mission to provide universal broadband services
The provisioning of 4G mobile services will be granted through an open competitive bidding process
More than half of the uncovered villages are inhabited by people from tribal communities
The Cabinet cleared utilization of the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) to provide mobile connectivity in 7,287 uncovered villages across five states at an estimated cost of Rs 6,466 crores. The decision comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Birsa Munda museum in Ranchi, Jharkhand on the first-ever ‘Janjatiya Gaurav Divas’ or Tribal Pride Day. The project will be completed within 18 months of the signing of the agreement. USOF, an attached office of the Department of Telecommunications, aims to provide financial support to provide telecom services in commercially unviable remote areas of the country.
The move is in line with the objectives of the National Broadband Mission to provide universal and equitable broadband services across the country. Industry body Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) expects this move will bridge the digital divide and bring remote villages under the digital map of India by enhancing seamless coverage, thereby providing a stimulus to the rural economy.
The provisioning of 4G mobile services in identified uncovered villages will be granted through an open competitive bidding process as per USOF procedures. The telecom tower plan covers 1,218 villages across 3 districts in Andhra Pradesh, 699 villages across 8 districts in Chhattisgarh, 827 villages across 19 districts in Jharkhand, 610 villages across 4 districts in Maharashtra, and 3,933 villages across 10 districts in Odisha.
It must be noted that more than half of the 7,287 uncovered villages are inhabited by people from tribal communities. As per various sources, approximately 36 lakh people across these villages will benefit from this decision. As of August 2021, 5,72,551 of 5,97,618 inhabited census villages of the country, including tribal affected areas, have mobile network coverage. Mobile connectivity in these areas will accelerate the dissemination of information, skill development and upgradation, disaster management, and e-Governance initiatives.