For the first time, people living along India’s international borders will be able to access domestic mobile networks within 500m of the country’s perimeter.
The government, by revising mobile access norms, has allowed networks to operate within 500m of the international border as opposed to the earlier 10km. However, the revised norms do not extend to the Line of Control, Line of Actual Control, and Akhnoor and Pathankot areas in J&K and Punjab, respectively, where the licensee would still be required to create a ‘buffer zone’ of 10km, and in which they cannot deploy their cell sites or their radio transmitters.
Last month, following a request from the commerce ministry, the department of telecommunications (DoT) had notified changes to the cellular mobile telephone service license agreement. The ministry had made a strong case to ease the norms after it received representations from traders in 14 land-border stations.
The norms put in place since August 2002, specified by DoT, required a mobile operator to create a ‘buffer zone’ in which no mobile service signal was allowed. According to the revised norms, “there shall be a ‘no-service zone’ of 500m width along the international border within the Indian territory for wireless/mobile service where the licensees are not permitted to provide wireless or mobile service.”
“The earlier norms had created a situation where Indians living along the international borders did not have access to local BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam) mobile services but could access Grameen mobile of Bangladesh near the Bangladesh border, China telecom services along the Chinese border or Mayanmar telecom along the Mayanmar border,” minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh told Mint.
The issue was discussed over the last six to seven months with the home ministry, Ramesh said, adding: “There were some security concerns that have been addressed.”
The revised norms provide for periodic surprise checks to be carried out by the licensor or security agencies in order to ensure compliance. Violation of the could attract financial penalty. State-run BSNL is expected to benefit in getting more subscribers with the new norms in place, since it is the only mobile service provider in these backward regions.