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Rs. 5,000-cr project to improve mobile connectivity in North-East

The Hindu BusinessLine:  May, 2014

Delhi/Kolkata: The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology is planning to extend basic mobile coverage, including voice calling, in far-flung areas of eight north-eastern States, at an estimated cost of over Rs. 5,000 crore.

According to TRAI, at least 20 per cent of the villages in the North-East do not have mobile connectivity.

The States include Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura, Sikkim and Nagaland.

Better connectivity

The region has a strategic importance because of its proximity to the neighbouring countries of China, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar. Improving coverage is likely to help facilitate mobile surveillance, sources said.

In-principle approval for the project has already been obtained from the Telecom Commission — the highest decision making body of the Ministry, a departmental note states.

Under the project, new telecom towers (in uncovered areas) will be set up as greenfield installations; coverage along National Highways is to be perked up and, if required, optical fibre cables laid.

While approximately Rs. 2,400 crore will be spent as capital expenditure (tower installation and laying cables); the remaining Rs. 2,670 crore would be for maintenance and op-ex over a five-year-period.

Funding would be through the Universal Service ObligationFund.

Uncovered areas

Around 9,190 villages (as per 2011 Census) out of the 43,200 in the region still lack 2G voice calling facility, the report mentions.

Among those to be brought under the mobile loop, 2,886 villages are in Arunachal Pradesh, 2,885 in Assam and, 2,389 are in Meghalaya. Tripura only has two villages.

A detailed report by Telecom Consultants India Ltd, states that 6,673 towers will be set up.

In case of coverage along the National Highways, another 321 towers need to be installed at an estimated cost of Rs. 300 crore. Maximum sites need to come up along the National Highways in Arunachal Pradesh (149); followed by Manipur (53); and Nagaland (48).