State-owned telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) will extend the broadband Internet facility to all districts and blocks of the country by March 2009, an official statement said here Monday.

“Broadband coverage will be extended to 148,000 villages in the next six months from the current 30,000 villages. BSNL provides broadband services in 3,261 cities, which will be expanded to 5,000 cities by March next year,” the statement said.

Currently, BSNL covers about 95 percent of the district headquarters and about 44 percent of the blocks.

Communications and IT Minister A. Raja recently announced the government's plans to initially connect 5,000 blocks by wireless broadband soon after the allocation of the spectrum, with support from the Universal Service Obligation (USO) fund.

Villages within a 10 km radius of a block headquarters will be covered by such connectivity - which will benefit institutional users like schools, public health centres, village panchayats and community service centres - meant to provide e-governance and data services to rural areas.

BSNL has already floated zonal tenders to procure 93 million lines to extend coverage of its GSM mobile services to all villages in the country with a population of more than 1,000.

It has extended 11 million GSM connections in the rural areas covering about 256,000 villages.
In order to boost telephony in rural areas, BSNL recently has introduced a tariff plan called Gramin 75, under which fixed monthly charges have been reduced from Rs.110 to Rs.75.

The plan applies to exchange systems with a capacity of between 1,000 and 29,999 lines. Fixed monthly charges of Sulabh Plan under fixed/WLL (wireless local loop) service in exchange systems of more than 29,999 lines have also been reduced from Rs.120 to Rs.99, the statement added.