India’s state-owned company Bharat Broadband Nigam Ltd has cancelled a massive tender worth somewhere in the region of US$2.52billion which aimed to connect villages across 16 states with an optical fibre-based high-speed broadband network.
The tender was apparently cancelled earlier this month (though only widely reported recently), with non-participation cited as the reason, though it does seem some bids were evaluated, but the participants involved failed to qualify.
We reported on the tender last year. The aim was the development of BharatNet through public private partnership (PPP) in nine separate packages across 16 states for a concession period of 30 years.
Bharatnet, described as the world's largest rural broadband project, aims to provide broadband connectivity to all the 250,000 gram panchayats (village councils or basic village-governing institutes) across India.
This is not the end for the tender, however. India’s Economic Times quotes an unnamed government source who has suggested that the tender will be floated again after taking feedback from the industry and added: “The government is committed to connecting villages with broadband at the earliest."
The public-private partnership option was apparently tried after state-owned firms faced several issues in rolling out the projects and missed several deadlines.
The BharatNet project was first approved in 2011 when it was called the National Optical Fibre Network. The aim was to connect all 250,000 village councils to an optical fibre network by 2013. The project has now been extended to 2025.
However, the Economic Times suggests that over 169,000 village panchayats were service-ready for broadband services under BharatNet from the end of last year.