At a time when the Union government is planning to set up seven advanced landing grounds in Arunachal Pradesh, besides upgrading the existing ones, people in this border state are still grappling with cellular connectivity issues. In the mountain villages of Arunachal, people are greeted with a message from a Chinese mobile network, every time they turn their phones on. The villagers, along the entire 1,126 km-long border in Arunachal, get signals from a leading telecom player in China, a source in the Army said here. “The signals are strong enough to stretch up to 10 km on the Indian side,” he said.
The situation is similar for border towns on the west too, where Pakistani networks work better than their counterparts here, the Army source stated. The country’s mobile services are unable to operate in the border areas due to a central government policy, he said. “The government allows only a limited number of towers of a certain frequency in the border areas. As a result, people here receive signals from Chinese telecom companies. They cannot access the network though for lack of a SIM card,” the source said.
People often get frustrated with the erratic network signals, said Joney Yaying, a resident of Zido village in upper Siang district of the state. “Leave alone Internet banking, we cannot access Internet or WhatsApp like others in the country,” he added. Pema Nyisur, another villager from Gelling village in the district, said mobile service providers have erected limited number of towers in the border areas. “If the telecom players do not install more towers, uninterrupted service will remain a distant dream for us,” Nyisur added.
Until a few years ago, Chamlang village in Anjaw district did not have landline connectivity, said Mailu Tega, a social worker. The district, which has an ITBP post, recorded instances of Chinese incursion in the recent years. In January, a top service provider had set up towers in some of the remote districts of the state. Another telecom company is expected to expand its services in upper Siang district later this year.
These services, however, will not be extended to the border villages, Tega rued. Chief Minister Pema Khandu earlier this week said the Centre has sanctioned 1,800 towers at a cost of around Rs 1,800 crore in the border areas of the state to improve connectivity.
Admitting that people, as well as the Army men, are cut off from the rest of the world due to lack of mobile networks, Rural Development Minister Alo Libang, who represents Tuting-Yinkiong seat in upper Siang district, said the Centre should initiate measures to deal with the problem.
Responding to a question from PTI, Union minister of State for Communication (Independent Charge) Manoj Sinha said his ministry is aware of a connectivity problem in the border towns. “We are also planning to provide satellite phones to the Army and other security agencies to cope with eventualities,” he said.