Kavita Suri

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BSNL facing problem in finding secure places in Kashmir valley for setting up towers

During the seven month long Indo-Pak standoff  at the borders due to 13 December Parliament attack, the hapless people of Jammu and Kashmir state faced a tough time. Faced with terrorism and bloodshed for the past 13 years, they also faced the wrath of the government as the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) decision to snap internet and STD/PCO facilities from the entire state for seven long months, affected their lives badly.

The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL withdrew the Internet and STD facilities from the entire state on 28 December 2001 as the intelligence agencies in the state apprehended that the defense related information was being leaked out through PCO booths. The argument included that the militants were using laptops and computers for communicating with their mentors all over the country and abroad. Besides, they were also using Public Call Office (PCOs) to make calls to each other, hence the snapping of the ties.

Snapping of the facility abruptly had come as a shock to most of the people and security personnel as it was done at a time when tension at the borders was at its peak and families back home were worried about their welfare. The government decision had also affected over 6000 STD/PCO operators functioning all over the state. Of these, 2500 alone were in Kashmir valley. Besides, it was for the first time in the past 54 years that the government had withdrawn such facilities from Jammu and Kashmir. Even such a move was not taken during 1971 Indo-Pak war. People felt as if they were living in the primitive ages, with no connection with the outside world except through television.

With this move, even the future of mobile telephony services coming to militancy-torn state was also jeopardized. Ultimately, in June last year, the ban on telephone and internet services was lifted and life returned to normal. Thus came the clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) directing the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) to start Wireless Local Loop(WLL) and mobile services in the troubled state.

After facing a ban on STD calls and internet services due to heavy border build up for seven long months, the residents of militancy-infested state of Jammu and Kashmir will at last have access to mobile phone services which would be made available by the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) from 13 April. It will, in plain language, be 'Baisakhi' gift from the Government of India to Jammu and Kashmir. In the initial stages, mobile phone service will be made available in the principal cities, Jammu and Srinagar and Mata Vaishno Devi keeping in view the heavy influx of pilgrims to this holy place. In subsequent phases, the service will cover the entire State. 

“With the mobile services starting from 13 April, Jammu and Kashmir will join the telecom revolution in the country with the Central government deciding to extend mobile phone services to the state,” says Mr Arun Kumar , Chief General Managar (CGM) Telecom, BSNL, J&K.

For starting the mobile services in Jammu and Srinagar cities and Mata Vaishno Devi initially, the BSNL would be setting up a total of 23 towers – 10 in Jammu, 10 in Srinagar and one each at Katra, Sanji Chat and one at Bhawan. By 15 August, the mobile services would cover the remaining 12 district headquarters of the state for which another 37 towers would be set up. Besides, the entire National Highway from Lakhanpur to Srinagar would also be covered in this phase II.

Mr Kumar also informed that that the BSNL had to work overtime and much efforts were made to find secure building in Kashmir where they could erect the towers for the mobile services. 

“The problem was to find secure building where no anti-national element could sabotage it. If something happens to any of the towers, then the entire mobile service would go haywire,” he said adding that now with great effort, they have identified places at Kashmir University, Srinagar High Court etc where they would be setting up the towers for mobile services.

Presently, phase I has been taken up throughout the country as far as BSNL mobile services are concerned. While the entire country will have Phase II by October this year, Jammu and Kashmir will have both the phases  in April this year only.

The GSM technology has been adapted in our country for regular and fully Roaming Mobile Telephony. The same would be used in the troubled Jammu and Kashmir. For starting mobile services Nigam requires latest GSM technology for which the tenders were floated earlier and order placed to a company but due to delay in receiving CCS directions, the process was shelved temporarily.

“In J&K state the mobile services will be provided in all the 14 district Headquarters along with Mata Vaishno Devi / Katra including full coverage on Pathankot – Jammu - Srinagar National  Highway. A main switch will be installed at Jammu which will have two branch switches one each at Jammu and Srinagar,” informed Mr R.K Upadhayaya, General manager, BSNL, Jammu adding that a total of 60 base stations are proposed to be installed in the project to cover the areas earmarked. Every base station is connected to one of the two branch stations. Bigger cities, Jammu and Srinagar will have 10 base stations each, while the District Headquarters of Baramulla, Kupwara, Kargil and Leh will have two base stations each. Remaining District Headquarters   will  have  one base station each. Pathankot - Jammu - Srinagar  National Highway will have 24 base stations to cover the highway portion, providing signals in moving vehicles, he said adding that the main and branch stations will be located in one or the other telephone exchanges. The base stations as far as possible, shall be located in telephone exchanges but at Jammu and Srinagar some roof top sites need to be acquired wherein roof top towers will be put up.

The cell phone tower at Channi Himmat has already been made ready while work on towers at Gangyal and Talab Tillo was going on at a rapid pace. The setting up of the towers for cell-phone is based on the radio frequency planning which is being properly conducted before installation of any tower. In Jammu city the areas which have been identified for installation of towers for cell-phone are Gandhi Nagar, Talab Tillo, Gangyal, Channi Himmat, Trikuta Nagar, Jewel, Residence Road, Kachi Chawani, Janipur and Nagrota. 

"The work on these places is going on rapidly as we are committed to start cell-phone services in Jammu by April 13—Baisakhi", said the GMTD.

Nigam will also appoint distributors in all the areas of the State and in case of any problem, customers will have to approach them as Nigam is going to involve distributors for the same. 

It may be mentioned that the BSNL has recently launched Wireless Telephony in Jammu city only. 

With the BSNL working overtime for launching mobile services on 13 April, the people of Jammu and Kashmir who are anxiously waiting for the mobile services , will join their counterparts in rest of the country in this technological revolution. 

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