There is good news in store for pilgrims embarking on Char Dham yatra. BSNL has announced that they will soon introduce 3G mobile connectivity along the entire stretch of the 250-km long route, from Rishikesh to Garhwal. The telecom operator has already installed 80 towers in the Srinagar and Garhwal telecom district to this end. Cutting-edge Chinese technology is being used to ensure seamless connectivity while overhauling the entire existing network. It is believed that once 3G becomes operational, pilgrims will be better able to keep in touch with their family and also get updates, like weather condition, and seek help in case there is any emergency, which will consequently make the journey safer and more convenient. The yatra this year starts on April 21.
The General Manager of the telecom district of Srinagar and Garhwal, BSNL, MP Gupta, pointed out that since it was a herculean task to lay optical fibres beyond Phata, they are instead using microwave links and VTS (voice telecommunications system) sets to equip the important routes of the yatra so that pilgrims enjoy the benefit of uninterrupted communication. Once the 3G becomes operational, both mobile as well as internet connectivity will be available to pilgrims.
BSNL has tied up with Chinese firm ZTE who has provided the technology for enhancing the mobile and internet connectivity. The technology has been installed at the Base Station Terminal (BST) of the mobile towers. A vital aspect of the technology being used is that it is tailor-made for hilly areas and bad weather. Moreover, BSNL analyzed the operational gaps that were noticed during the Kedarnath tragedy which took place in 2013 to come up with an internet and mobile optimization roadmap for the yatra route.
Elaborating on the 3G scheme, Gupta said that so far BSNL has installed 18 3G towers along the 250 km stretch –from Rishikesh to Phata. Additionally, there are four 2G towers in the 33-km long Phata to Kedarnath stretch. He said that whether to go for 2G or 3G has been decided based on the prevailing ground conditions in a specific stretch. To power the mobile towers, BSNL expects to stock diesel for generators.
The Chief General Manager, Uttarakhand, SP Shukla informed that they are in the process of ensuring that there is sufficient stock of fuel along the route. Besides, mobile units with the latest gadgets and manpower will patrol the sensitive points of the route. To handle exigencies, BSNL has put in place the Extra Digital Satellite Phone Terminal as a back-up plan.
It is very difficult to maintain connectivity during the trying summers, especially since there are many incidents of damage to optical fibres caused by digging for road widening and while erecting electricity poles. Taking this into account, a team of optical fibre maintenance experts would be kept in standby at the time of the yatra.
It is also worth noting that the BSNL exchange, which is located behind the Kedarnath temple, was destroyed by the flood in 2013. However to make sure that there is no repetition, they have ceased their landline operations and since moved to mobile network. A mobile tower has come up some 500 meter from the river with the district administration agreeing to oversee its maintenance.
Taking security of pilgrims a step further, the district administration of Rudraprayag and Chamoli are also in the process of taking the help of satellite phones which are very useful during emergency situations. BSNL intends to install five such phones in the two districts.