News Details

News Details

Cells turn the Valley into yakkers' heaven

Economic Times, New Delhi
Tuesday, April 25, 2006

THE Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir is opening up to the wonders of mobile telephony, thanks partly to the peace process between India and Pakistan. The areas close to LoC — still occasionally exposed to infiltration — are now on the radar of telecom operators. Telcos are putting up base stations in villages that are 3-5 km from LoC, to meet the fastgrowing demand for mobile services. However, there are no services on or very close to LoC. The fact that crossborder firing has stopped completely has helped the spread of cellular services.
 
The demand is driven not only by local residents but also by defence personnel. “Locals in these areas had till now only heard of mobile phones. With telcos such as BSNL setting up towers in villages close to LoC, demand is outstripping supply,” sources told ET.
 
“The waiting list for BSNL mobile connections in border villages of J&K is running into thousands. When residents come to know a mobile tower is being set up, they come to help officials in the hope of getting faster connections,” an official said. Besides, defence personnel are keen to use mobile services not only for official purposes but also for communicating with their near and dear ones.
 
“Being connected with our home is a dream come true. Though wireline services have been available for many years, mobiles have revolutionised communication for us,” said an armed forces member in Poonch.
 
BSNL has put up 415 sites across J&K, of which around 30 are in villages close to LoC in Poonch, Baramulla, Kupwara, Doda and other areas. “BSNL is planning to set up another 95 towers in the next six months in J&K,” said Nutek VP (business development) Vineet Sirpaul. Nutek, subcontractor for Nokia and Ericsson, is setting up the BSNL network in the region.
 
According to industry sources, Bharti has around 300 sites in J&K while Dishnet Wireless, offering GSM telephony under the Aircel brand name, has 190 cell sites. Sources said Hutchison Essar is also keen to enter J&K.
 
However, putting up telecom infrastructure in these areas is not easy. “We could put up antennas and other equipment only at night in militancy-prone areas such as Rajouri and Poonch. Firing during day time prevented work, and even at night, labourers have to stop work often due to security risks,” said an official at a telco.