Telecom connectivity in rural, tribal areas set for major leap

Better connectivity plans rolled out for North Eastern Region, areas affected by left wing extremism, border regions  

In a bid to enhance telecom connectivity in rural and tribal areas, the Centre has begun implementing a slew of unique schemes that would prove to be a big leap in the communications arena in the country. As per a plan that has been charted out in this regard, the Union government will roll out these schemes under the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) in areas including the North Eastern Region, areas affected by left wing extremism, border regions, aspirational districts and islands.

Besides, the government is also going ahead with its plan towards revival of state-run telecom players BSNL and MTNL. It may be recalled that the Centre had, on October 23, 2019, approved the revival plan for BSNL and MTNL. The Cabinet inter-alia approved administrative allotment of spectrum for 4G services through capital infusion.

Following this, on December 21, 2020, the administration had approved the allocation of spectrum for Delhi and Mumbai to BSNL. The Union Cabinet had this year reserved spectrum for BSNL for providing 5G services.

Indian-made 4G equipment testing on

With all these on stream, the government has initiated and covered good ground in the testing of Indian-made 4G equipment, under the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative. The delivery of the equipment will begin soon after the testing processes are completed. It is expected that the telecom customers will begin seeing the advantages of the Indian made equipment once they are deployed and commissioned, a Communications ministry statement said.

Further, the government has also set into motion its BharatNet project in a phased manner. The project aims at providing broadband connectivity to all gram panchayats across India. The ministry has elaborated that the scope of BharatNet has been extended to all inhabited villages beyond gram panchayats in the country.

A look at the details of schemes and projects aimed at enhancing the communication network in rural, tribal and hilly areas across the country makes it clear that as many as 2,343 mobile towers have been installed in areas affected by left wing extremism (LWE) under the LWE Phase-I scheme. These include as many as 96 mobile towers in West Bengal. Under LWE Phase-II scheme, 2,542 mobile towers at Ministry of Home Affairs identified locations are approved across the states that have reported left wing extremism issues.

Mobile connectivity in 354 border villages

The project also aims at ushering in mobile connectivity in 354 villages of uncovered border areas including Ladakh and Kargil Region, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and other priority areas. A comprehensive telecom development plan for mobile connectivity has been rolled out in the North Eastern Region to provide mobile coverage in uncovered villages and along with the national highways too.

The plan also includes providing 4G mobile connectivity in 502 uncovered villages of aspirational districts in the four states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The government will also provision 4G-based mobile service in 7287 uncovered villages of aspirational districts of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Odisha.

Besides these, projects that aim at laying submarine optical fibre cable between Chennai and Andaman and Nicobar Islands for providing connectivity to Andaman and Nicobar Islands are being taken up. Among the other schemes are submarine OFC connectivity between Kochi and Lakshadweep Islands; and mobile connectivity to cover uncovered villages and along National Highway 223 in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

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