India to Support Regional Telecoms Infrastructure

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Jun. 14 – In a move to honor its commitment to develop its telecommunications infrastructure, Telecoms Minister Kapil Sibal confirmed that India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has cleared a proposal to establish a total of 2,199 solar-powered mobile towers in regions which are affected by terrorist activity.

India has recently experienced attacks in many of its lesser-connected regions from Maoist extremists. It is hoped that the establishment of these towers will bolster regional security and connectivity.

The proposal – which will take about one year to build – is worth a total of Rs 3,046.12 crore (US$530 million), and will be funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) of India.

BSNL, a state-run telecoms company, has been chosen to install the towers in the areas without having to bid for the project after private companies expressed fear in setting up shop in the regions. However, approval from the Cabinet must be given to amend the Indian Telegraph Rules for this reason as, per the rules, funds from the USOF can only be given to entities that are selected through a bidding process.

“We are committed to developing the infrastructure in naxal affected areas…the DoT has [already] cleared the proposal, and it will now be sent to the Cabinet,” remarked Mr. Sibal.

The 2,199 towers are likely to be spread out across the following nine states (covering a total of 80 districts): Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. There is currently no mobile coverage whatsoever in any of these regions.

The establishment of the telecoms network in these areas will undoubtedly increase mobile and broadband connectivity penetration in the country, especially in areas that have been affected by warfare and others that are currently facing security issues.

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