BENGALURU: Here is music to the ears of Metro commuters who used to face much inconvenience while entering the underground stretch as it lacked mobile connectivity. For, from now you can continue with your phone talk undisturbed, or continue with your tweets and WhatsApp messages even when your train zips past through the underground tunnel. Telecom operator Airtel has recently come on board to provide network connectivity in the underground stretch extending for 4.8 km from Cubbon Park to City Railway Metro station. Reliance Jio was the first to come on board.
The contract to put in place infrastructure along the Metro network, including the underground corridor, was offered to US-based American Tower Corporation (ATC). The stretch was inaugurated on June 26, 2017, and was supposed to have connectivity in place at time it was thrown open. However, none of the telecom operators, including BSNL, came forward to offer network connectivity due to various reasons.
An official at ATC told The New Indian Express, “We have two leading operators on board now. We are also in talks with Voda Idea and they have responded positively. We hope to have them on board by the end of this year.” However, he ruled out BSNL joining the group due to “numerous operational issues” it was suffering from.
Asked about the reasons why operators refused to come on board, he said the industry was passing through a slump during the last three years. “Tata Docomo, Aircel and Uninor have all shut shop due to the turmoil in the telecom sector. So, no one was thinking of expansion,” he said.
One of the leading operators said, “The reason why we as well as others refused to join was the huge annual licence fee demanded by ATC. None of us want to lose our customers due to call drops, but the charge demanded was simply too much.” However, the ATC official denied this claim.
Meanwhile, Metro commuters are a happy lot. Vivek Krishnan, a commuter from Indira Nagar to Cubbon Park, said, “Connectivity is absolutely vital. Imagine there is an emergency and you are stuck underground. We need to reach out to someone for help.”