Open to Using Balloons, Drones, Satellites for Broadband Project: Prasad

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Open to Using Balloons, Drones, Satellites for Broadband Project: Prasad
The government is open to the use of satellite technology, drones or special balloons for providing broadband connectivity to all the gram panchayats under the NOFN project, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Tuesday.

"We have to reach every gram panchayat and therefore I am quite open to tweaking the technology of the programme if you can come with concrete suggestions and our technical team can supplement that," Prasad said during the Digital India summit here.

The government's ambitious project National Optical Fibre Network aims to provide high-speed broadband connectivity to 2.5 lakh gram panchayats by December 2016. The estimated cost of the project is around Rs 30,000 crore.

"...wherever it is possible, digging will be done, cable would be laid, where its possible if we can supplement by satellite or balloon or drones, we can consider that, if its possible to use the cable in urban areas to give broadband, therefore I am quite open about it," Prasad added.

He was responding to the suggestions made by the industry that option of satellite technology should be explored to provide broadband connectivity to the gram panchayats.

The government has set a target of rolling out optical fibre network across 50,000 village panchayat by the end of this financial year, 1 lakh more by March 2016 and another 1 lakh by the end of 2016.

Regarding electronic manufacturing, Prasad said foreign companies manufacturing in the country are entitled to all the benefits given by the government.

"We have come up with lots of incentives, electronics clusters have been opened in many states...if you invest $100, we will give you $25 (return)," Prasad said.

Under the Modified Special Incentive Package (MSIPS), government provides subsidy for investments in capital expenditure with a limit of 20 percent for investments in Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and 25 percent in non-SEZs.

The government is making efforts to boost electronics manufacturing in the country.

India imported telecom products worth Rs. 69,516.37 crores in 2013-14 while exports of such items were at Rs. 20,475.17 crores during the year, leaving a significant deficit of Rs. 49,041 crores.

Prasad said the government has opened up Electronic Development Fund to support electronics manufacturing in the country.

The government is also working on a policy to give incentives to business processing outsourcing (BPO) centres in rural areas and non-metro towns, he said.

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