Remote parts, 10-km radius along LoC, IB are left out
21 August 2003
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent
Jammu: The Government has no plans to extend cellular service to all parts of Jammu and Kashmir. The cellular service, which was formally launched by Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee on Wednesday through video-conferencing, will not be available within 10-km radius along the Indo-Pakistan International Border (IB) and Line of Control (LoC) in the State. Giving this information here on Thursday at a news conference, Prithipal Singh, Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), made it clear that the cellular facility will also not cover the remote and hilly areas of Jammu and Kashmir. Prithipal Singh disclosed that arrangements were under way to extend BSNLís cellular service to other parts of J&K 'very soon'. Elaborating, he let it be known that the concerned authorities were required to issue clearance for the purpose. The BSNL CMD clarified that in the first phase, only post- paid Cellone facility would be available in Jammu and Srinagar and along the Pathankot-Jammu-Srinagar national highway. He was confident that the service will connect all the 14 district headquarters in J&K to the rest of the country. He also disclosed that the BSNL had set a target of rolling out one crore mobile telephone connections in the country. Work, in this connection, will begin from April next year. Prithipal Singh said that BSNL, having marked a 100 per cent increase in subscriber base in the past four years and registered 36 lakh mobile subscribers since October last year, would soon introduce SMS (short message service) facility on the fixed landlines. According to him, the number of cellular customers has gone up from 1.2 million in July 1999 to 16.5 million at June-end this year. He pointed out that since the new telecom policy was announced in 1999, the number of fixed telephone lines had gone up from about 21.6 million in 1999 to 43.5 million by the end of June this year. 'We are improving the infrastructure that will cover 800 important towns, which were not covered until now', he said and added that the State-run telephone service provider would roll out another 25 lakh connections by the end of the current year. This, he also pointed out, will cater to the expansion of subscriber base in Jammu and Kashmir. He said that BSNL was also in the process of improving these services provided to the customers by way of value addition. The customers will not only be able to access voice telephone but data services as well, he said and added that infrastructure for the purpose had already been tested and these services would be implemented in the near future. 'We have carried out the tests successfully and some vendors have developed the terminal equipment also,' the BSNL CMD said referring to his companyís plan on providing SMS facility on fixed landlines. He said the company, which has 36,000 telephone exchanges throughout the country - most of them connected through optical fibre - is also planning to introduce other value added facilities like video on demand and interactive television. On the progress made in the internet section, he said 'BSNL has given out seven lakh internet connections throughout the country which makes us the largest internet service provider.' He said the target for this fiscal was fixed at one million internet connections but the phase two of the expansion envisaged increasing the number of connections three-fold. Singh said offering broadband services, increasing the capacity of nodes and the bandwidth were all included in the upgradation plans of BSNL for the immediate future. He said call centres have been set up at various places in the country, which will be linked to each other so that people can benefit from it irrespective of the fact where they are. BSNL was also working on offering conversion billing system whereby the customers can choose the type of billing they want. 'It can give billing for a day, week or whatever period for all BSNL services used by the subscriber... The system has been worked out and it will be completed by the end of this year,' Singh said. In reply to a question, Singh said monitoring of cellphones to prevent misuse by militants would be done at the directions of the Government. The system is in place at all BSNL networks. He dismissed the suggestion that the service might be withdrawn from Jammu and Kashmir saying 'let us not be afraid of that and enjoy the service.' On the delay in launch of WLL services in the State, he said testing of the equipment had been completed and it would be launched very soon.