A Green Mobile Network in India’s Red Corridor
How do you set up mobile networks in areas affected by insurgency? Especially when there are no roads or electricity? Welcome to India’s Red Corridor, some of the most hostile terrain in the country, with practically no roads, power or security. Here, in the worst left-wing extremism (LWE) affected districts of Indian states, 1315 solar-powered mobile communication towers have been setup in a record time of less than a year.
The world’s largest green mobile network is now operational, deep in the interiors of the Maoist affected belt of India. Commissioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as part of its strategy to mainstream such areas, funded by the USOF, and executed by Vihaan Networks Ltd (VNL) in partnership with BSNL, this unique project is changing the landscape and social fabric of the region.
Because laying fibre is not only difficult but also expensive and time-consuming, in challenging terrain, a wireless network was the only logical answer. Optimised base-stations, designed and manufactured indigenously by VNL, beam GSM voice and data signals from these mobile towers, and are networked with the nearest BSNL exchanges. Wireless backhaul and subscriber management is provided by BSNL.
As most of the region also has no or irregular electricity supply, all sites are solar-powered, with battery-storage providing 5-day autonomy. Diesel-powered generators are a strict no-no, as they’re not only heavily polluting, but susceptible to theft and pilferage, even in cases where the fuel can be transported without proper roads.
The green solution is also in line with the Government’s Renewable Energy Technology (RET) Committee’s order of 2013 which recommends a shift towards renewable energy sources for powering telecom networks.
The project is already showing a net positive impact on the LWE areas.
12,700 villages are now connected in 90 districts across the disturbed states. The network covers nearly 1.1 crore citizens, with 39 lakh mobile connections. Around 26,500 local youth have been directly and indirectly employed, and security forces operating in the region now have many more connected soldiers.
Wherever it has reached, mobile connectivity has altered the way people communicate, work, play and live. Deprived citizens in the LWE areas, almost living on the edge of poverty now have a window to the rest of the world, as they start using mobile phones to connect with other members of their families, employers, doctors and local bureaucrats and politicians, boost their productivity through better education, get access to agricultural inputs and markets, avail of finance, banking and other avenues for small businesses, and slowly start moving on the path to progress.
Tomorrow can only be better!