Pre-paid mobiles get roaming in Northeast

CIOL Bureau
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AGARTALA, INDIA: Pre-paid mobile phone users in India's northeast have for the first time been allowed to use roaming facilities by the central government even as the ban will continue in Jammu and Kashmir, officials say.


"The union home ministry has lifted the bar on roaming facilities in pre-paid mobile phones in the northeastern region. The decision was enforced Tuesday," Deb Kumar Chakraborty, general manager of the state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, told IANS.

He said the decision would be applicable for BSNL and all private telephone operators and said it came in the wake of the improved security situation in the northeast region.

"However, the ban on roaming facilities in pre-paid mobile phones in Jammu and Kashmir will continue," he said.


"Like other parts of India, pre-paid mobile phone customers in northeast India, who have been facing severe hassles without roaming facilities, can now enjoy them," Chakraborty said.

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He said the union home ministry took the decision following a proposal of BSNL and other telephone service providers after an improvement in the law and order situation and other pertinent aspects.


Mobile phones were introduced in the northeast in 2004. Post-paid mobile phones there have always had roaming facilities.

20 lakh BSNL pre-paid customers in Northeast

According to the official, there are more than 20 lakh BSNL pre-paid mobile phone customers in the northeast, besides lakhs of pre-paid mobile phone users of other private operators.

"Referring to serious security concerns, earlier the union home and defence ministries were averse to providing roaming facilities to pre-paid mobile phones in the northeastern region and Jammu and Kashmir saying the scope of the facilities had been misutilised by terrorists and other unlawful elements," a top intelligence official told IANS.


"With the Bangladesh government's crackdown on northeast India's separatist outfits and taming of militancy in most parts of the region, northeastern states have been asking the central government to remove the ban on roaming facilities in pre-paid mobile phones," the official said on condition of anonymity.

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The State-owned telecom operator will strengthen its infrastructure and set up more mobile phone towers along the bordering areas of the northeast region to improve its network.


The officials said earlier there was a restriction by the union home ministry on setting up towers within 10 km of the international border. Now the restriction has been reduced to only 500 metres.

Only 250 km out of the northeast's 5,000 km outer perimeter touches rest of India (with West Bengal). The remaining 4,750 km represents international boundaries with China, Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal.