The telecom department (DoT) looks to finalise the new telecom policy by February and would release its draft by December-end for public comments, Union minister Manoj Sinha said on Thursday.

“We are trying to bring new telecom policy by February.

For this the working group has started the process. We expect high level committee working on it to finalise draft by end of December and place it for public comments,” the Communications Minister told reporters.

He said the government expects to complete the first phase of BharatNet project to connect 1 lakh village panchayats with high-speed broadband by the end of November.

“Over 75,000 gram panchayats (GPs) are ready with broadband services and all 1 lakh panchayats will be ready for broadband services by end of this month. Every month we are installing equipment in 8,000-9,000 panchayats. The whole project has been executed using domestically developed equipment,” Sinha said.

The minister said that the government is considering various models for rolling out the second phase of the BharatNet project that will cover the remaining 1.5 lakh GPs involving laying of 2.63 lakh kilometres of optical fibres.

He said that BharatNet project will lead to generation of at least 5 lakh jobs once it is rolled out in all panchayats.

“Airtel has shown interest in 10,000 GPs for taking 1 Gbps connectivity on lease while Reliance Jio, Vodafone and Idea are interested in taking 100 Mbps connectivity on lease in about 30,000, 2,000 and 1,000 GPs respectively,” Sinha said.

The government will charge low rate to telecom operators for providing broadband service under the BharatNet project.

The annual charges will vary from Rs 700 per megabit per second (Mbps) broadband connection for up to 10 Mbps and Rs 200 per mbps for 1 Gbps for asymmetrical bandwidth (different download and upload speeds) for services between block to GPs.

However, for symmetrical bandwidth between block to GP, the telecom ministry will charge Rs 1,000 per mbps up to 10 mbps, and Rs 500 per mbps for 100 mbps per annum.

There will be no limit on quantum of data used or the number of connections that telecom operators can sell using BharatNet infrastructure, an official said.

Governments of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Telangana had submitted their own models for rolling out broadband networks in the states which the minister said has been approved by the telecom commission.

The government will provide total fund of Rs 10,740 crore to these states for the project.

“We will sign memorandums of understanding with all the states which have submitted their detailed project report in 10 days,” Sinha said.

BSNL has been given the task to roll out BharatNet project in Assam, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir and Sikkim. Power Grid has been awarded Himachal Pradesh, Odisha and Uttarakhand.

The minister said the Department of Telecom will also issue approvals to BSNL for rolling out telecom network in North East before November 15. BSNL has selected Vihaan Networks and Himachal Futuristic Communications for rolling out the project.

Talking about linking Aadhaar with mobile phone number for reverification, DoT Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said the government will not disconnect mobile connections of people who do not have the UIDAI number.

She said the department is waiting for the Supreme Court judgement on Aadhaar issue to decide on the action to be taken in cases where people have Aadhaar but do not want to link it with their mobile number.

“We are also working on alternatives for people who are abroad (to help them link their mobile number with Aadhaar),” Sundararajan said.