Phunchok Dorjey, TDM BSNL: Internet connectivity in Leh has been disrupted because of OFC cut down at two different points, one between Sonamarg and Zojila within the radius of 12 km and the second one between the Shaitan nallah and Gumri within the radius of 37 km.
Every year we carry out the preventive measures before the blocking of national highways in winters. The cable network has been disrupted most probably because of an avalanche in the area. The team is not accessible to the area because of the snow, thus, the connectivity will be restored only after the opening of the roads.
Telecom infrastructure in Ladakh is in the process of development and is not sufficiently developed. The availability of an alternate route is must to stay digitally connected. As of now, Ladakh is depended on Leh- Srinagar route which serves as the sole option, which is why if any problem arises the region remains totally cut off as far it is restored.
But yes, the company named VTL is laying a fresh OFC from Himachal- Leh route which will hopefully be completed in next two year. Secondly, a plan is there with the PGCIL- Power Grid Corporation of India Limited to lay OFC through Srinagar and also BSNL is laying fresh OFC from Srinagar route, which was initiated during the year 2015-16 and will be completed in 2018-19. A proposal for the new OFC via Gurez, Sankoo, Beema, Batalik, Hemis Shukpachan has been approved but the work has not been commenced fully.
Ladakh covers around 58% area of the J&K state and the population is very scattered. Sparse population, remote areas, low-income inhabitants, border areas etc are some of the reasons for the no availability of the telecom service due to the financial no viability for the telecom operators. But yes such challenges can be met by USOF- Universal Service Obligation Funding which provides support in providing telecom service in challenging areas.
BSNL have approximately 1.4 Lakh users out of which 1.3 Lakh approx are mobile customers. There are 3705 broadband, 312 EVDO, and 700/800 Wi-max users.
There is a National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) project which targets to provide broadband connectivity to all the Gram Panchayat. In J&K, Ladakh is in phase 2, the survey has been done and it will take the time to complete.
To give some relief in these three months, we are planning to do some satellite augmentation, I have sent the proposal and hopefully, it will be done within 10 to 15 days. We will also try to restore a few important broadband connections especially important departments and offices. For the common public, we will improve the data speed of the mobile. We will be enhancing the bandwidth with 5x4 almost. We are putting every effort and will definitely provide relief.
With the increase in demand, we keep on enhancing. Next year we will be installing 10 more towers in both Leh and Kargil town area to meet the capacity.
• All the stakeholders need to come together and raise the issue on a greater platform.
• Implementation of USOF is very important which needs to be followed up closely by the stakeholders.
HK Verma, CGM BSNL: As of now, Ladakh is connected only through Leh – Srinagar route. We also have satellite service which we have augmented the capacity this year but will further upgrade it to increase the capacity.
Secondly, we have approached the state government for aerial installation of OFC along with power lines.
Before the fall of winters, we take precautionary measures and strengthen weak links of the OFC but unfortunately due to an avalanche in the region the network has been disrupted. The problem has affected a lot and we are trying our best but our team is unable to access the area. Even the army has not been able to reach the area.
We have installed and augmented the bandwidth of the satellite by installing a new system in the current year which will enable people of Ladakh to access data through mobile. An alternate solution is very important to keep the region digitally connected.
We are already on the job for a permanent solution. Overhead OFC with the power line route is under construction and will be completed in the next year. It will be more reliable because it is overhead and normally it does not break down. We have also conceived the idea of Leh Himachal route for which the work has just started.
• Powerline route between Leh and Srinagar will be the best to give the service as the OFC will be laid overhead.
• Satellite augmentation is one way to give relief to the people.