ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Telecoms to the Villages

To make the telephone service affordable to ever larger sections of our people, our policies must encourage the adoption by competing providers of technologies they judge to be most cost effective. The licensors and the government must, further, not impose external costs unrelated to the business.

To promise prosperity, welfare, and all sorts of care including telephones and, nowadays, Internet to rural areas is an abiding pastime of politicians seeking a mandate for power and of bureaucrats seeking to fulfil the dream of government-centred and government-administered socialism through themselves. Just as there has not been one single five-year plan which has not promised large-scale alleviation, if not eradication, of poverty, there has not been any five-year plan of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) which has not promised more and more telephones to the rural areas and improved quality of service from those rural and remote area telephones. Just as the targets of poverty alleviation and prosperity creation have always been eluding us, so have been the targets of the number of rural and remote area villages getting a telephone been eluding the DoT. Except in states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and sometimes Maharashtra, the targets for village public telephones (VPTs) have always been under-fulfilled by the DoT. If such a mighty organisation as the DoT with tremendous resources and reach and professed commitment cannot fulfil its targets, is there any wonder that the private telephone companies (P-Telcos) licensed for basic telephony have not been able to install the promised number of VPTs? The private cellular mobile telephone companies could have been giving VPTs all along their intrastate backbone transmission network, especially if that is micro-wave radio, but the DoT has, for curious reasons, prohibited them from doing so, calling their actions an infringement of the terms and conditions of the licence. It is indeed strange that there been no affirmative and facilitative administration of the licence to enable every licensed operator to connect up more and more villages. In South Africa, the government required the licensed private cellular mobile telephone companies to obligatorily put a certain number of VPTs using cellular radio technology that serves the mobile customers also.

It is conventional wisdom, actually more of a presumed conviction, that rural telephony is costly in capital construction and very un-remunerative in operation because of limited number of calls and even more limited range of calling. Information in regard to rural telephony on the points listed below is to this day not publicly available:

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