The telecom regulator Trai on Monday suggested ways to improve telecom coverage and backhaul infrastructure in far-flung areas of Ladakh, with recommendations ranging from resource pooling across telcos on spare backhaul transmission capacity to maintaining a waiting list of service demand by licensed operators.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said that many remote areas in Ladakh lack mobile towers, resulting in network issues, particularly for those residing near the LAC and the Line of Control (LoC).
"As these areas are of strategic importance, mobile connectivity is crucial for ensuring the safety of the region by facilitating round-the-clock communication to the security forces deployed in these regions," Trai statement said.
Further, Trai noted that media reports too have highlighted the challenges faced by the people living near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in accessing high-speed internet, which is critical for pursuing online education and accessing digital banking.
"Based on the gap analysis and evaluation of the government sponsored USOF schemes, Trai has come up with recommendations on improving telecom coverage and backhaul infrastructure in far-flung areas of Ladakh," the regulator said.
Trai, in its recommendations, observed that three villages in Ladakh neither have any coverage nor were included in the ongoing schemes.
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"During discussions with the authority, BSNL has indicated that these villages will be included under 'Saturation of 4G mobile services' project. However, USOF must ensure inclusion of the 3 uncovered villages of Ladakh, under 'Saturation of 4G mobile services' project," it mooted.
Trai also pointed out that 19 villages in Ladakh neither have 4G coverage nor are they included in the ongoing schemes for providing 4G coverage.
The expenditure to be incurred for upgrading the existing non-4G based cellular mobile infrastructure at these 19 villages should be funded by the government through USOF.
"In 12 out of these 19 villages, the authority recommends that the VSAT connectivity provided under BharatNet can also double as backhaul for 4G connectivity. In the remaining 7 uncovered villages, VSAT connectivity on shared basis should be considered till connectivity on OFC (optical fibre cable) media is extended to these villages," Trai suggested.
Trai recommended that all operating telcos in Ladakh must provide "fair and non-discriminatory access" to their spare backhaul transmission media resource capacity through lease/rent or on mutually agreeable terms and conditions to other telecom and internet service providers.
"A committee of TERM field unit of J&K and representatives of all TSPs (telecom service providers) should be formed at the earliest to help resource pooling across TSPs. A second level committee at the telecom department headquarters should be formed to periodically review and resolve any impediment being experienced by any affected entity," Trai said in the statement outlining the recommendations.
The authority recommended that charges paid by lessee operator to any lessor operator for use of spare backhaul media transmission resource capacity should be reduced from the gross revenues of the lessor to arrive at Applicable Gross Revenue (ApGR).
Licensed telcos should maintain a waiting list of service demand, Trai said, adding, the Department of Telecom (DoT) should establish a mechanism to obtain, examine and analyse the data on waitlist from all telecom service providers.
"DoT should do a site-wise analysis of all such sites that are being run by BSNL or any other TSP on VSAT in remote and hilly areas in Ladakh. For all such sites that are being run to serve strategic or service delivery needs of the government, the entire operational costs of running these sites should be borne by the government," Trai said.
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