North East needs Rs 2,918 crore to improve its telecom infra

North_East_MapThe country needs to invest Rs 2,918 crore in order to improve the telecom infrastructure of its north east region that consists of eight comparatively smaller states, said TRAI.

The sector regulator TRAI said this in its report Improving Telecom Services in the North Eastern states: An Investment Plan.

Investment for the entire north east for installing 3,316 number of 2G BTSs will be Rs 1,236 crore. The overall investment for the north east for installing 816 number of 3G Node-Bs will be Rs 148 crore. Investment for the entire north east for implementating the proposed transmission media plan will be Rs 314 crore and national highway construction plan of Rs 59 crore.

As on May, 2013, the teledensity in five states is below the national average of say 70 percent. Similarly, in four States, namely, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram, the percentage of villages not having mobile coverage ranges from 56 to 24 percent. This is very high when compared with most other states where the percentage of uncovered villages is less than 10 percent.

TRAI’s recommendations for improving telecom infrastructure in the north eastern region include: Discount of 2 percent of AGR of license fee to TSPs who cover at least 80 percent of the habitations with a population of 250; Providing subsidy from USO Fund for bandwidth charges through satellite connectivity; Subsidy for installation of solar power units at telecom towers; PGCIL and BSNL to lease their dark fibre to other TSPs and also to reduce their bandwidth leasing charges in the north east region to make them comparable to those charged in other parts of the country; and TSPs in the NER to enter into inter and intra circle roaming agreements amongst themselves within a period of six months for all the BTS along the National Highways passing through NER States.

For improving telecom infrastructure in the north eastern region, the state governments should provide support to TSPs. These include: Availability of commercial power for BTSs on priority; Provide land and government buildings for erection of BTS; Reduce the levy of taxes/charges on the use of diesel generators (DGs) by TSPs; Allow pulling of OFC on transmission towers/poles of state electricity boards; Facilitate availability of sufficient diesel supply to the TSPs particularly during bandhs/strikes; BTSs running on DG sets are allowed to run round-the-clock so that the people get uninterrupted telecom connectivity; and set up a single-window clearance for all telecom related clearances/NOCs.

In the north east out of the total 45,214 villages, 9190 inhabited villages do not have even basic voice coverage. The roll-out of 3G coverage is also not very encouraging in most states. Moreover, due to the lack of sufficient transmission (OFC, microwave, and satellite), adequate bandwidth for high speed broadband is not available even at state capitals.

These eight States cover an area of 262,189 square km covering about 8 percent of the country’s total geographical area. The North Eastern Region (NER) comprises the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.

The region is characterized by extremely tough terrain with relatively poor infrastructure, such as rail, roads, electricity and telecom. Attempts have been made in the past to increase telecom connectivity and tele-density in the region. However, the results have not been very encouraging.

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