Telecom regulator TRAI today recommended an initial plan costing over Rs 2,400 crore to connect Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep with stable and strong telecom networks which at present rely on connectivity through satellites.
“The Authority recommends that the investment of Rs 2,277.87 crore (Rs 1,772.91 crore for ANI and Rs 504.96 crore for Lakshadweep) be incurred for providing reliable and quality telecom services in ANI and Lakshadweep,” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has recommended. The regulator has recommended that besides connecting these regions with cables, satellite connectivity should be retained in parts of both of these union territories (UT). In Andaman and Nicobar Island (ANI) 29 out of 576 islands are inhabited and 90 per cent of the population lives in three islands — North, Middle and South Andaman Islands alone. In Lakshadweep, 11 out of 36 are inhabited and 10 of the inhabited islands have population above 100.
For Andaman & Nicobar Islands, the regulator has suggested connecting 22 islands, which included 18 islands with population of above 100 and four islands which have presence of police, forest camps and tourists. For Lakshadweep, the regulator has factored connectivity at 10 inhabited villages. The Islands is a part of the West Bengal service area and Lakshadweep is a part of the Kerala circle. In Andaman & Nicobar Islands, four telecom operators — BSNL, Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance — have launched services.
In Lakshadweep, only BSNL and Airtel (partly) have launched services. While in the rest of West Bengal and Kerala service areas there are eight telecom operators. “Even the telecom service providers, who have rolled out their network in these islands, are concentrated only around the capital, district headquarter or bigger islands. Even BSNL is not keen to expand its network to all the inhabited islands and villages because these operations are commercially unviable,” TRAI said. TRAI has recommended that besides connecting ANI and Lakshadweep with cables, satellite connectivity should be retained in parts of both of these union territories (UT).
The regulator has suggested that apart of one-time infrastructure cost, Department of Telecom or Administration of these UTs should pay Rs 130.4 crore (Rs 104.16 crore for ANI and Rs 26.24 crore for Lakshadweep) annually as viability gap funding for hiring satellite bandwidth and operational cost. “It may be reviewed after five years,” TRAI said. Government is already working on a plan to connect ANI with a submarine cable from Chennai. TRAI has recommended government to create a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) submarine cable at an incremental cost of about Rs 600 crore to connect ANI from Kolkata to give it back-up in case submarine cable from Chennai is damaged.