Telecom service provider Bharti Airtel on Wednesday announced a partnership with the Department of Telecom to boost broadband penetration in rural India by piloting Broadband Experience Centres based on the government's BharatNet infrastructure. Under the tie-up, Airtel has set up three Broadband Experience Centres in rural areas in Uttar Pradesh, and has committed to partner with BharatNet in up to 30,500 gram panchayats.
As of now, the new Airtel broadband experience centres have been setup in Ghazipur, Gorakhpur, and Varanasi districts. The Sunil Mittal-driven telco says that these centres will enable citizens and local entrepreneurs to experience high speed broadband connectivity. They will also be provided access to use cases relating to e-governance, e-health and e-banking and e-commerce, and more. Airtel says that these centres in future will also demonstrate advanced technologies and use cases around Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things.
Furthermore, Airtel claims to be providing 100Mbps speeds in the broadband experience centres through infrastructure provided under DoT's BharatNet programme. Additionally, Airtel has partnered with Jiva Ayurveda (online health consultations), Takshilla E-Learning Services (educational content services), and Amazon (for Amazon Echo smart speakers) to provide other digital and web based services.
"Access to broadband is a key enabler of inclusive economic growth and social wellbeing of rural inhabitants. We are pleased to support the commendable initiatives by the DoT to ensure broadband access for every Indian and in particular building the infrastructure backbone under BharatNet. The Broadband Experience Centers established by Airtel in partnership with DoT riding on BharatNet infrastructure will will open the doors to the digital world for millions of Indians and unlock several exciting opportunities for them," said Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO (India and South Asia), Bharti Airtel.
Additionally, at the Airtel broadband experience centres, users can experience Amazon Echo, the Alexa-powered voice-controlled smart speaker that allow users to request information, answers, play music, read the news, get weather updates, control smart home devices using voice commands.
"Early access to technology, content and the Internet has the proven potential to enrich lives. It breaks down barriers of technical know-how and language. We are pleased to collaborate with Airtel and DoT to introduce users in Ghazipur, Gorakhpur, Varanasi with the latest in voice technology from Amazon Echo smart speakers," said Jayshree Gururaj, Director - Amazon Devices.
Under BharatNet, the government plans to connect 2.5 lakh gram panchayat villages with optical fibre connectivity. In the first phase, one lakh villages have been claimed to be connected with optical fibre for providing broadband connectivity to users. In the second phase of the project, the government aims to connect 1.5 lakh more gram panchayats, and is targeted to be completed by March 2019.
To recall, in November last year, the government had launched Phase II of BharatNet project through which it aims to provide high-speed broadband connections to all panchayats by the end of 2019. As a part of the project, all major telecom players like Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, and Vodafone India had given cheques to the government to hire infrastructure in gram panchayats to provide broadband services.