The inter-ministerial panel Telecom Commission is likely to consider this week a proposal for setting up mobile towers in unconnected villages of the North East, as per official sources. “Telecom connectivity plan for improving connectivity in the North East will be placed before Telecom Commission on September 8,” a government official, who did not wish to be named, told PTI. The mobile towers will be installed under the Comprehensive Telecom Development Plan for the North-Eastern Region (NER) which was approved by the Cabinet in September 2014. Under the plan, 8,621 villages out of 9,190 unconnected villages are to be covered by installation of 6,673 mobile towers with total outlay of Rs 5,336.18 crore. The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), which is handling the project, is likely to submit bid proposal for installing around 4,000 out of the 6,673 mobile towers. The state-run BSNL has been entrusted with task of installing network in tough terrain of Arunachal Pradesh and two districts of Assam — Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao.
The state-run telecom firm has submitted bid received from Vihaan Networks Limited and HFCL for installing around 2,000 towers for Rs 1,648 crore. These two domestic telecom equipment firms had rolled out mobile network project for BSNL in Left wing extremist areas across nine states. Rest of the project was to be rolled out with help of private telecom operators. After no show by private telecom players for the tender, the USOF finally received a bid from Bharti Airtel this year.
Airtel has placed a bid for installing around 2,000 mobile towers for around Rs 1,660 crore. According to sources, the USOF has deferred plan to roll out mobile towers in Meghalaya for time being and will work on the project through separate tenders. The Telecom Commission has to take call on the price difference between the two bids and validity of single bid received from Bharti Airtel.