Telecom Plan to Improve Connectivity in North-East

On the same day when the Government of India gave the go-ahead to the infrastructure projects in Ladakh region, the Union Cabinet approved the Comprehensive Telecom Development Plan for the North-East Region (NER). Before harping on the possible impact or benefits the project will deliver, let’s have an incisive look at some of the inherent connectivity problems in North East.

Telecom and Internet connectivity has suffered in this region. There have been frequent disruptions partly because of poor infrastructure and partly due to tough terrain. Most of the States in the North-East are cut off from the rest of the country in times of natural calamity or other contingencies. Each State had pointed out the need for “stabilizing telecom services and improving the quality.” At a time when the BJP Government is zeroing on improving the telecom connectivity in the North-East, the fact remains that at least 21 per cent of 43,200 villages in this region remain unconnected to any mobile network.

Telecom problems in North-East 

While frequent landslides in Manipur cause disruption in connectivity, the concern for Meghalaya is poor coverage of mobile service and lack of village public telephones. In Mizoram, the focus area is primarily the hill-top villages that presently don’t have wireless network coverage. Improving GSM coverage and Wi-Fi services in Tripura is imperative and expanding 3G services to all 11 districts of Nagaland is also the need of the hour.

With an estimated cost of INR 5,336.18 crore, the project’s cardinal objective is to expand the ambit of telecom connectivity to include all the villages in the North-East. To add on to it, the project aims at ensuring seamless connectivity on national highways in the region. The scope of Telecom Development Plan goes beyond this. According to this plan, the reliability of district and State headquarters connectivity will be increased by providing alternative optical fibre connectivity. The larger idea is to keep the district and State headquarters connected through voice and data transfer despite facing connectivity issues in one route.

The aims of telecom development plan

Going by the initial response, it seems that the plan for augmenting telecom services in the north-eastern region is being formulated after conducting the gap analysis. Some of the proposed benefits of the Telecom Development Plan are:

  • The project will provide 2G mobile coverage in identified uncovered areas of the North-East Region (NER)
  • It will provide 2G seamless mobile coverage along National Highways by setting up 321 mobile towers
  • It will ensure “reliability of and redundancy in the transmission network at State Capitals and district headquarters.”
  • This project will cover 8,621 out of 9,190 unconnected villages by setting up 6673 towers

This development plan was preceded by another significant stride towards enhancing telecom connectivity across the North-East.

In June 2014, State-run BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd) inked an agreement with PGCIL under which the latter would provide 400 gigabyte per second of bandwidth to help BSNL improve connectivity in regions closer to the China and Bangladesh borders. The project is expected to cover 20 crucial locations in the North-East with both the entities planning to deploy high capacity telecom equipment in their networks.