Top of the VNL Rural site at Chamgang peeps out from the thick foliage of trees.
Bhutan’s first private mobile company Tashi InfoComm Limited (TICL) – popularly known as TashiCell – has selected VNL’s WorldGSM™ solution to connect remote communities in the Himalayan Kingdom. After successful trials in Chamgang in 2012, VNL deployed WorldGSM™ equipment in Tshangkha, Thrimshingla and Gayzore.
Two views of the VNL WorldGSM™ Rural BTS site for Tashicell at Chamgang. Originally deployed as part of the ITU-VNL partnership project for the ITU “Connect a School, Connect a Community” program, the site is now integrated into the TashiCell Bhutan network.
“This is a smart initiative which sets a milestone in driving energy efficient affordable ICT access to rural and remote areas and benefits to communities where they live,” said Mr Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau . “Such an innovative public-private-peoples’ partnership, which promotes mobile,GPRS and broadband access to rural and remote communities, represents an attractive, affordable, inclusive, scalable and sustainable step forward in providing digital opportunities for the people of Bhutan.”
Sweeping view of the valley from the base of the Chamgang site overlooking Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan.
The project is a result of the partnership between the Telecommunication Development Bureau of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Vihaan Networks Limited (VNL), announced at the ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference in March 2010. The goal is to make WorldGSM™ solar powered solutions available to village schools and communities, as part of the ITU Connect a School, Connect a Community programme. A Cooperation Agreement between ITU & VNL was signed in December 2010 and a solar power based mobile transmitter was installed in Chamgang, Bhutan, in collaboration with Ministry of Information & Communications and TashiCell.
View from the top of the VNL Rural site-VNL’s WorldGSM™ solution emphasizes the role of compact modular design and small footprint, making it ideal for deployment in any tough terrain. This site is on a mountain slope with thick vegetation where there is hardly any place for the elaborate structures that are typical of traditional GSM solutions.
With a subscriber base of 115,000 and growing, TashiCell is present in all 20 Dzongkhags (administrative and judicial disctricts) of Bhutan, and is expanding operations to cover subscribers in more remote locations. VNL’s WorldGSM™ is a key part of their rollout strategy.
All sites are on mountain slopes usually accessible by a dirt track. That’s where VNL’s compact and lightweight modular equipment comes in handy- conveniently packed into boxes that allow easy handling in tough terrain conditions. Extremes of weather- rain, wind and snow-are another challenge that VNL has overcome in Bhutan. Temperatures at some locations can dip as low as -14 degrees Celsius.
Urbanization is a subjective concept and has a different meaning in every individual’s mind; but what remains common is the idea that urbanization defines a change in the way people think, live, and interact.
All those of you who have studied Sociology must be well aware of how urbanization is changing the rural landscape, as the latter expands to merge into urban areas. What is more interesting is the ‘city lifestyle’ which is redefining the way rural folks live.
I’d like to look at the business side first – with SEZs (Special Economic Zones) being set up across the remote regions in the country, the rural population has not only been blessed with employment opportunities, but also higher wages and a better standard of living. A majority of the people who migrate from rural to urban areas do so for the job opportunities that cities have to offer. But with BPOs and manufacturing units setting up shop next door, the rural youth don’t seem to be complaining. In fact, the BPOs have started a new trend in rural India, one which prevailed in the metros, and then trickled down to the tier II and III cities – earning enough money not only to support family needs, but also to engage oneself in small indulgences. The income earned is also giving many the opportunity to study further with the money they save up.
The rural business story also has another side, where some of the biggest retail and FMCG brands have opened their chains in rural and remote areas, because as urban markets reach their peak, and begin to stabilize, rural India is on a high. As technology penetrates into the semi-urban and non-urban regions, and TV sets, PCs and mobile phones enter rural homes, there is an increase in the way that individuals and families are emulating the lifestyle of city people.
From a consumer’s perspective, people in rural India have enough reasons to smile; after all, they are the next billion users of every product and service that companies across sectors have to offer. The economic slowdown has accelerated this development, as even the biggest corporate houses are eyeing the domestic market. In all this, the telecom industry is one of the few that has already touched lives in rural India, mainly because it was one of the first sectors to realize the potential that the untapped rural market held.
Rural urbanization can not only ease the pressure of surplus labour in rural areas and change the way India lives, but it also curbs the flow of rural laborers into big cities and helps stimulate national economic development.
So, where is your next business venture headed?
In 2007, Indian companies acquired more than $18bn worth of western companies. And in the past four years, the Indian economy has grown by 9% every year.
A prime example of the Indian acquisition trend is the recent takeover of Jaguar and Land Rover by Tata. The world economy has, as Aditya Chakrabortty just wrote for the Guardian, tilted. In the favour of Asia.
But the big impacts of the new Asian economies aren’t mainly the acquisitions. It’s the prices of oil and commodities like steel that have burst through the ceilings thanks to a highly increased demand from the likes of India and China.
It’s quite logical. As The Guardian puts it;
India and China have such big populations that, as they get tied into the global economy, they can’t help but have huge impacts on the rest of the world.
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