The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is seeking approval to transfer mobile network assets in regions affected by Naxalite rebels to state-backed telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), the Economic Times writes, citing an unnamed senior official. BSNL was mandated last year with establishing mobile coverage in 2,199 areas of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh known to be prone to Naxalite activity to improve communications and the home ministry’s surveillance operations. The INR30.46 billion (USD505.79 million) project will be funded entirely by the Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF), whilst the DoT will remain in charge of the network for its first five years. The DoT’s plans to see the infrastructure transferred to BSNL aim to ensure that service continues beyond 2019, when the USOF funding of the programme ends. The handover has reportedly been endorsed by the Telecom Commission, but will require approval from the Cabinet.
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