Speaking in the parliament, Union Minister for communications and IT, law and justice, Ravi Shankar Prasad said that almost 2,068 villages in the Eastern Ghats of Andhra Pradesh do not have mobile phone service. The statement was made in response to V Vijay Sai Reddy‘s question when the latter asked him about the number of villages in AP that still had no access to mobile networks.
This could be attributed to remote and rough terrain, inter-alia and areas diversely located with scattered population and commercially non-viable operations. The Union Minister added that mobile coverage in such nondescript villages will be set up in a phased manner by the government and telecommunications service providers.
The Centre has approved the installation of 346 mobile towers under Left Wing Extremism (LWE) Phase-II. The project seeks to provide mobile connectivity in nine districts of Andhra Pradesh.
Currently, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is the primary service provider for 5,967 villages out of 8,963 villages in the eastern ghats of Andhra Pradesh. BSNL officials have confirmed that coverage for the rest of the villages will be provided on the basis of availability of funds and techno-commercial viability. However, BSNL has been reporting losses since 2010. On the other hand, PSU MTNL has consistently been reporting losses for nine years out of ten in the past. The two firms have a collective debt of around Rs 40,000 crore.
The Union Minister said that BSNL will be revived and made profitable, soon during the question hour in the Lower House.
The government approved a Rs 69,000 crore revival package for BSNL and MTNL last month. The package includes merging the two firms and monetising their assets. Plans to give VRS to employees are also underway. These steps are likely to make the combined entity profitable in two years, as per the government plans.