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  1. Reliance Jio and COAI differ over mobile connectivity project in Naxalism affected regions

Reliance Jio and COAI differ over mobile connectivity project in Naxalism affected regions

The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) is the funding agency and is in the process of floating a tender. The project cost for the second phase is more than Rs 10,300 crore. Several officials whom FE spoke said Jio and COAI have different views on the terms and conditions of the tender.

By: | New Delhi | Published: December 21, 2017 5:59 AM
The government’s commitment to provide mobile connectivity in areas affected by the Left wing extremism (LWE) has once again put Reliance Jio and the telecom industry body, COAI, on a collision course. (PTI)

The government’s commitment to provide mobile connectivity in areas affected by the Left wing extremism (LWE) has once again put Reliance Jio and the telecom industry body, COAI, on a collision course. The Department of Telecom (DoT) plans to install 4,072 telecom towers in 96 LWE-affected districts across 10 states to provide mobile connectivity. The first part of this project (LWE Phase 1) has been completed last year. For the second phase, DoT is of the view that technology in these areas should be a mix of 2G and 4G. The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) is the funding agency and is in the process of floating a tender. The project cost for the second phase is more than Rs 10,300 crore. Several officials whom FE spoke said Jio and COAI have different views on the terms and conditions of the tender. For instance, COAI in its representation to the telecom ministry has said awarding such mobile connectivity projects to a 4G-only operator will create a “small 4G island” and subscribers from other operators will not be able to avail of the services. On the other hand, Jio has accused COAI of making “mischievous false representation” to prevent it from participating in the tender. Jio is of the view that going ahead with the 2G technology will result in awarding tenders to an “old, outdated, inefficient and dying” technology, which will lead to a “virtual monopoly of 2G operators over all the USOF schemes”. The Telecom Commission is expected to take a call on this project in LWE areas on Thursday.

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