Cross-border signals from Punjab, J&K worry DoT

Written by Charanjit Ahuja | Chandigarh, Feb 25 | Updated: Feb 26 2008, 07:55am hrs
Department of telecom (DoT) has issued show cause notices to four mobile operators, whose services have been found to be operational in "no service zones", along the international border of the country. The DoT has asked an explanation from Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance Communications and BSNL as to why they should not be fined Rs 50 crore per circle as penalty for violation of the licencing agreement, official sources said.

Pre-empting any action by DoT, Airtel has removed 10 mobile towers situated within 10 km of Line of Control. Airtel has confirmed to the DoT that "as per the regulations of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), the company has removed 10 mobile towers near LoC in J&K, without affecting the mobile services in the rural areas close to the LoC".

Referring to company's policy to provide SIM cards in PoK, Airtel sources said that strict check of the applications were conducted, besides, monthly audit of all SIM records by the vigilance monitoring officer is conducted as a security measure. Sources said that the company has 1,100 mobile towers in PoK and it covers 20 districts out of 22 districts. BSNL sources when contacted said, "BSNL had installed jammers to jam signals crossing over to Pakistan side." It is learnt that as per DoT guidelines, telecom operators are not allowed to provide services within the range of 500 metre along the international border within the country. The field units of vigilance telecom monitoring cell of DoT found that signals of these four mobile companies were available in the buffer zone of the border areas. Earlier, the range was 10 km of the buffer zone of border areas. The DoT has asked the companies to ensure there antennas on the towers do not point to the international borders.

Sources from Intelligence told FE on Monday that in the Bedian, Mughalpura, Harbanspura or other areas close to the border, one can find GSM cell phone to catch signals of couple of cell phone networks. Particularly, Airtel seems to be the one with best connectivity, as it actually works for both voice and GPRS data.

Intelligence sources said there were number of PCOs across Wagah, Attari border falling in Pakistan side using SIM cards of Indian cellular operators. Operators have installed 103 towers within the 10 km zone in the states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttaranchal, sources added.

The vigilance telecom monitoring cell of DoT has also found that signals of a number of Pakistan companies like Mobilink and WorldTel were reaching this side too.