The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is reportedly planning to come up with a new model to connect 43,000 villages that still lack cellular services. Under the new model, the DoT is planning to grant 100 per cent subsidy for capital expenditure, thereby paying for the installation whereas operators will set up the network and operate it. Operators including Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have teamed up with the DoT for the same.

Further, the unconnected villages will be divided into three categories —easy-to-cover, medium difficulty, and hard-to-cover. Post this, pools comprising villages from each of these three categories will be formed. Telcos will then bid for these pools without any disaggregation of pools from villages. The telco with the lowest bid will then provide connectivity to these pools.

According to industry sources, DoT’s intention is to subsidise operating costs for five years, after which, the infrastructure will be handed over to the operator.

However, the government is currently working on other modalities, including the total size of the project.

As per DoT’s data, Odisha has 9,940 unconnected villages, while Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have 6,117 and 5,558 each. Other villages lacking connectivity are located in border areas, islands and the north-eastern states.