The government has decided to connect 496 villages along the India-China border with IMSAT satellite that will restore connectivity to people living in such remote areas, Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad informed Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
Replying to queries by members over connectivity issues in Niti valley in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand along the India-China border, he said all digital satellite phone terminals (DSPTs) have been disrupted in these villages and the outposts of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Army and Border Roads Organisation.
This happened after the transponder of NSS-6 Satellite was turned off on May 13 this year due to security concerns.
Prasad said since these are far flung areas and each mountain is connected with the satellite, the process to restore such service is long and cumbersome and involves a lot of capital infusion.
“There is reconfiguration with other satellite and the government has decided to link 496 villages along the India- China border through IMSAT satellite and this includes the villages in Niti Valley,” he told the house.
He said the government is providing communication service at cheaper rates to armed forces personnel and they are charged at Rs 1 per minute telephone call instead of Rs 25 per minute.
“The BSNL does this work despite all kinds of problems,” he said.
In his written reply, the minister explained the reason for disruption of all DSPTs in the Niti valley.
“For providing communication service through Digital Satellite Phone Terminals (DSPT), approximately 25 MHz bandwidth on NSS-6 Satellite (non-indigenous satellite) was procured by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) from M/s Antrix, a subsidiary of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO),” he said.
Citing security concerns, the minister said M/S Antrix repeatedly asked BSNL to migrate DSPT services from NSS-6 Satellite to GSAT-18 Satellite (indigenous satellite).
However, BSNL requested M/S Antrix to continue the DSPT services on NSS-6 Satellite as a lot of activities such as re-orientation of antenna/relocation of antenna mount were involved.
“M/s Antrix w.e.f 13-05-2019 turned off the transponder of NSS-6 Satellite stating that the said satellite has already completed its life. Due to this, the DSPT services got discontinued with effect from May 13, 2019 onwards,” he said.
The communication services provided through DSPTs are also disrupted in the outposts of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Army and Border Roads Organisation for the reasons detailed above, he said.
“However, at present I-SAT Phones are available at Border Out Posts (BOPs) for operational communication.
“BSNL apprised the reason for discontinuation of DSPT services to Department of Telecommunications (DoT)/Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) requesting financial support in carrying out the migration activity which is a time taking activity (20-25 weeks) for re-orientation of antenna at each location, relocation of antennas wherever needed and also involve substantial cost,” he said.
Various possibilities of providing telecom services in these areas are being explored for early restoration of services, the minister said in his written reply.―Business Standard