Vodafone Group Chief Executive Officer Vittorio Colao Tuesday met Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and expressed the telecom major's intent to take part in Digital India and National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) programmes of the Indian government, according to sources here.
Colao said the company wants to partner the Indian government in the NOFN project to help in the last-mile connectivity of broadband, the sources said.
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NOFN is set to link 600 million rural citizens of India across 2.5 lakh gram panchayats spread over 6,600 blocks and 631 districts through broadband optical fibre network.
In the first phase, it will cover 50,000 gram panchayats, with the remaining 200,000 panchayats expected to be covered in a phased manner by 2016. The project is being implemented by three central PSUs - BSNL, PGCIL and Railtel in the first phase.
It is learnt that Colao also raised the issue of availability of additional 2100 megahertz or 3G spectrum, which is at present lying with the defence ministry.
The government will auction 5 MHz of 15 MHz of 3G spectrum. The rest is lying with the defence ministry.
Earlier in the day, the minister speaking at a Digital India summit here said the government is open to using satellite technology, drones or special balloons for providing broadband connectivity to all the gram panchayats under its NOFN project.
"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.
"...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 it's possible to use the cable in urban areas to give broadband, therefore, I am quite open about it," he added.
"My benchmark 4 success of #DigitalIndia will b- Dalit women running common service centres & providing digital services," the minister tweeted.