New Delhi, Apr 4 (PTI) Average phone call tariff dropped by more than 60 per cent to 19 paise per minute while data tariffs plunged by about 90 per cent to Rs 19 per 1 GB during June 2016 to December 2017 period, Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha informed Parliament today.

“The tariff for mobile telephony services is under forbearance except for national roaming and rural fixed line services … The average outgo for voice and data services in India have shown continuous downward trend, particularly in the recent past,” Sinha said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.

According to the data shared by Sinha, average outgoing call rate in June 2016 was 49 per minute which reduced to 19 paise per minute in December 2017.

The average data rate was Rs 205 per gigabyte (GB) in June 2016 which fell to Rs 19 per GB in December 2017.

The data shared by the minister showed that number of mobile connections in the country fell to 115.2 crore in January 2018 from 117 crore in March 2017.

Sinha in a separate reply said that the government was working on various projects, including BharatNet which aims to connect 2.5 lakh gram panchayats in a phased manner with high speed broadband network, to increase connectivity.

“In December 2017, Phase-I of Bharat Net has been completed by connecting one lakh GPs…As part of this project, the last mile connectivity, through Wi-Fi or any other suitable broadband technology is to be provided at all the GPs in the country. The project is targeted to be completed by March 2019,” Sinha said.

As on March 25, 2018, by laying 2,68,963 km Optical Fibre Cable (OFC), a total of 1,13,964 gram panchayats (GPs) have been connected, of which 1,04,889 GPs have been made service ready, he said.

Under Comprehensive Telecom Development Plan for North East Region, the government has signed an agreement with BSNL to install 2,817 mobile towers for providing mobile (including data) coverage in 4,119 uncovered villages at an estimated cost of Rs 2,258 crore.

“Agreement has also been signed with Bharti Airtel Limited and Bharti Hexacom Limited to install 2,004 mobile towers for providing mobile (including data) coverage in 2,128 villages and National Highways in NER,” Sinha said.

He said that a proposal for providing mobile services (including data service) at 4,072 identified locations by Home Ministry in Left-extremist affected areas in Phase-II has been recommended by the Telecom Commission with an estimated cost for Rs 7,330 crore (excluding taxes).

“The proposal is being submitted to the Cabinet,” Sinha said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.