The Telecom minister Manoj Sinha has said that India's telecom sector is likely to generate as many as 4 lakh new jobs and contribute significantly to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in the next 5 years, as the Union Budget for 2018-19 seeks to enhance telecom infrastructure in the country. He noted that the government has allocated Rs 10,000 crore for expansion of telecom infrastructure under various projects in the country, including laying of 4 lakh kilometres of optical fibre cable (OFC) network to connect 1.5 lakh gram panchayats by March 2019, scaling up wifi networks and connectivity in north- eastern states and laying undersea cable for connecting Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANI) and Lakshadweep Islands etc.
The minister has stated that the task of connecting one lakh gram panchayats with high speed optic fibre network has been completed under Phase 1 of Bharat Net program. He also said that under phase 2, targeted to be completed by March 2019, the government aims to connect remaining 1.5 lakh GPs with OFC based broadband network. Besides, he said that the budget allocation will be used for setting up 5 lakh wifi hotspots in rural area. He believes that installation of 5 lakh hotspots will increase wifi hotspots by 15 folds in the country. He added that at present, there are 38,000 public wifi hotspots.
Sinha has stated that enhance connectivity will help Department of Posts (DoP) to expedite direct benefit transfer scheme being handled by it and enhance role of India Post Payments Banks, which will be launched in March-April. He also pointed out that DoP plans to increase passport seva kendra from 60 to 251 in this calendar year. He said that provision for installing electronic system at tolls will enhance roll of telecom ministry and Make in India programme. Adding further, he highlighted that India has emerged as one of very strong telecom market with 1,186 million phone connections out of which 1,163 million are mobile phones, tele-density has reached around 91 percent and internet user base increased from 422.81 million at the end of march and to 429.23 million in September.