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Bharti Airtel: 4G connectivity boosting digital economy at Indo-China border

Government-funded 4G tower of Airtel started services last week in Lumpo, one of the last villages in the district near the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh, paving the way for access to new age digital economy for the locals.

Reliance Jio, the bigger rival of Airtel, is already present till Dirang, 38 km from Bomdila– a district between Tawang and the state capital Itanagar.

It expects to connect Jang (98 km from Dirang) by mid-May and thereafter connect Tawang (40 km from Jang) by June-end. The telecom tower will open the local population to a host of services, officials said.

With the improvement in road infrastructure, most of the people in Lumpo and nearby villages have their own vehicles but they need to travel hours for to access banking, education, shopping, government services etc in the absence of a data network.

“We have been using mobile phones for the last 10-12 years on the BSNL network but data doesn’t work. Airtel 4G has just started and now we are able to transact using Google Pay, PhonePe here. Google is also working well now. Online videos are also working,” Dorjee, an electrician based out of Lumpo told PTI.

Lumpo is around 115 kilometres from Tawang district headquarters and approximately 3-5 kilometres near LAC in terms of aerial distance. While Airtel has boosted telecom services on the Tawang border, Jio has 10 tower sites on the Indo-Bangla border in Tripula and 19 on the Indo-Bangla border in Meghalaya as well as on the Indo-Myanmar border in Mizoram and Manipur.

Jio has a total of 457 sites on international borders. Airtel has 383 sites. Dorjee said locals are required to send their kids to Tawang town for education as even small doubts related to studies cannot be cleared in the village.

“With 4G services starting here, we will be able to provide online classes for our kids here,” Dorjee said.

Most of the locals here are blue-collar workers but are well-versed with the importance of data and they access it when they travel towards town.

Zemithang, another village near LAC, at a distance of about 17 kilometres from Lumpo, recently started getting 4G signals from Airtel but locals said it is not regular.

Zemithang village head Phurpha Leki said that people have been using the BSNL network for the last 10-12 years but it does not support data connectivity.

“We have been getting Airtel signals for the last 1 or 2 years but it doesn’t have an internet facility. We have a few local shopkeepers who collect money then they get a mobile recharge done from people at the foothills. We suffer a heavy loss due to this. We pay Rs 120-130 and get only usage worth Rs 97. If we get the internet here, we can overcome many issues,” he said.

Leki said that sometimes locals get good speed on Airtel and BSNL when locals get to recharge DTH and mobile phones. The Centre has approved 2,605 4G mobile towers for providing connectivity to more than 3,721 villages in Arunachal Pradesh with a total outlay of Rs 2,675 crore which includes connectivity at Bum La Pass near the line of actual control.

Tawang Extra Assistant Commissioner and in-charge District Commissioner Rinchin Leta said all villages located near LAC will be covered with 4G and 2G sites in those areas are being upgraded to 4G.

“59 towers in Tawang are being upgraded to 4G. As per Government of India instructions it should be done by December. The entire border area will be covered with 4G towers that are coming up with the support of USOF.

Towers are being set up at Bum La Pass. In the eastern side of our district near the India-Tibet border, Mago and Thingbu villages will soon get 4G. BSNL is setting up a tower and Airtel is also soon going to put its 4G there,” Leta said.

He said 4G has increased data speed in the border district which has enabled local administration to provide online services.

“After the improvement in net connectivity, we are seeing an increase in online shopping by people here. Earlier people had limited choices here. Local entrepreneurs now order online and deliver it to people in the area,” Leta said.

Tawang Sub Post Master NK Sharma said that inland letters have come down in the district but e-commerce parcels have increased significantly.

“We dispatch 80-85 parcels daily. We have seen an increase in e-commerce parcels in the last two years. It has more than doubled. 60 per cent of homes in the town largely shop online,” Sharma said.

Airtel has activated 263 towers for 4G services and will add another 445 towers in Arunachal by the end of this year, according to a government official.

BSNL had earlier installed 2G mobile networks with the help of USOF (Universal Service Obligation Fund) and it plans to install 4G base stations with financial support from the Centre.

The state-owned firm was the first to install a mobile network in the tough terrain of the Tawang district including at an altitude of 13,700 feet in the snow-clad mountain of Sela Pass.

It is now in the process of setting up a mobile tower at Bum La Pass in Tawang located at an altitude of over 14,000 square feet from sea level.

“We have 2G plus 3G BTS at Sela Pass which is located at 13,700 feet from sea level. It will be converted into 4G by December. We have another 4G site planned for Bum La Pass by year-end. As of now, we have shortlisted 18 sites for new 4G towers in Tawang. All these will be completed by December,” BSNL sub-divisional officer telegraph at Tawang, Ranjan Kumar said. PTI

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