Telecom abolishing landlines, vaporising PSUs, report.

Telecom abolishing landlines, vaporising PSUs, report. The fate of landline telephones and PSU’s – Long term approach in the nation’s interest.

Telecom Policy needs to be revived.

Not every Government department is profitable, and not every Government department is meant for business. Though the technology of telecommunication and the speed of data has been growing, every department in the government including the units of BSNL/MTNL under the DoT could and should have adopted new technologies. Whereas, the circumstances resembles that the DoT and Government intentionally trying to dissolve the Government’s telecom enterprises.

While such circumstance is viewed as an act in the interest of the nation, such view is an absolute mistake of the Indian telecom policy, and the department is executing the abolishment of telephone landlines with unconsciousness.

Prominently, there are several fundamental reasons why these public enterprises and public infrastructure have to be maintained under the control of the Government and they still have to be under the Government’s control.

It is my humble view that the landline telephone lines have to be maintained for the centuries to come. It is irrelevant whether wireless and mobile technology is growing or a new technology comes under the wireless space.

What is more important is to see that new technology must be coming only from their own country. Especially, in the matters of security, reliability, and indigenous technologies to be developed and maintained within the country for several reasons. It not only gives an opportunity for new engineers and scientists within India. But, we will be able to sustain the system in case of unexpected international issues and national calamities.

The recent Huawei dispute in the US is a good example, why a democratic nation is banning Huawei Equipments and technologies of a Chinese company.

Secondly, such private technologies and companies may not be following the same due-diligence, rigidness, which is normally followed under the Government enterprises, or under the Government Specifications.

Thirdly, though technologies have grown, the inconvenience to the ordinary users and the services at the needed hours are virtually not available, there have been many circumstances, the whole mobile networks went down for the continuous week, leaving the users isolated from communication, a typical situation of a 50 years back to history.

Chennai’s 2016 flood and 2017’s VARADHA cyclone are great examples, how the telephone landlines worked as the lifeline, while all the mobile telecom operators went for a blackout for a whole week.

Otherwise too, once known as top, telecom giants have gone bankrupt. They, vanished by leaving the mobile users in the blackout and left everyone on the road without even giving mobile port codes and solution. Reliance Communications led by Anil Ambani and Aircel are the best examples.

Most importantly, the telecom infrastructure is supposed to be the properties of the Central Government, the private players are supposed to be allowed to use the common infrastructure of the government and provide services over it, privatizing the only the services. Whether it is a 48 Volts DC-based landlines or fiber-based FTTH networks or a 5G wireless network, the infra should be Governments.

Coming to the landline telephones, the public sector enterprises’ facts establish that the landline infrastructure is being forced to deteriorate intentionally. Furnished below the some of facts collected through RTI Act from the BSNL south zone, MTNL Mumbai and Delhi, those will bring up a common understanding of why and how the Telecom Infrastructure of the Government enterprises are voluntarily deteriorated, while the private operators are allowed to provide services; who seems to have no attentiveness either in the public interest or in the nation’s interest, but except profitability and bankrupt scenarios.

RTI reply collected from various offices of BSNL, MTNL in the metro cities and towns of the southern states discloses valuable information under the Right to Information Act. The following are the questions raised, and overall answers received in common are tabled hereby as below.

Note: Question means a question raised through the RTI, RTI Answer means consolidated replies received from various offices of BSNL and MTNL. Issue means the issue raises from the disclosed RTI answers and a general view that evolves for improving the telecom policy, that needs to give importance with attention.

1 Question      What technology is being used in BSNL exchanges?
  RTI Answer       CDOT, OCB, SESS, EWSD, NGN, AXE, ANRAX, RSU, MBM, E-   10B, NT Switches, Ericson, and Next Generation Network
  ISSUE a)    It is pertinent to note that why these Exchanges are not upgraded universally, to the newest technology?
2 Question Who owns the Exchange’s technology Ownership?
  RTI Owner EWSD -Siemens,
ITI – India,
  ISSUE Why new research initiatives like upgraded CDOT and FIBER communication research organizations were not been established in India. Exclusive research and manufacturing organization should be established as an independent organization. So that we become the owners of our own technology.
3 Question Whether TRAI or DoT has communicated to BSNL or MTNL any notifications to stop issuing new landline connections?
  RTI Answer Nil
  ISSUE If DoT has not decided or notified to restrain new landline connections, then why DoT has not scrutinized BSNL and MTNL to issue new landline connections? Or why did not they ask that no new connections are given, while 50% of the capacities are kept unused, because of no cable procurement?
4 Question The number of new telephone exchanges installed between 2006 to 2016?
  RTI Answer Trivandrum – 33, Bengaluru – 187,
Hubli – 14, MTNL, New Delhi- 339, Hasan – 1 for 48 connections, MTNL MUMBAI – 13 Remote Exchanges, capacity 5664710, working lines 3220784, Spare capacity, 2443926
  ISSUE Why no policies have been framed to use the spare capacity, particularly the department ignored to procure cables and rejected new applications on the non-feasibility grounds. Spare capacity is now more than 50% average in every telephone exchange.
5 Question The number of new telephone exchanges installed between 1996 to 2006?
  RTI Answer Tiruvandrum – 297, Shimoga- 25, Hubli – 9, Chennai- 35, Hasan-22, Kolar – 44
6 Question The number of new telephone exchanges installed in BSNL Chennai since 2006 to 2016 ?
  RTI Answer                NO ANSWER GIVEN
7 Question Allowed distance of Paired wired landline from the exchange?
  RTI Answer 5 ~ 8 KM.
  ISSUE Then why new landline connections are not given for applications that fall within 5-8 KM. Many non-feasible reports were issued. How to resolve this issue now.
8 Question Paired wired Cable Procured between 2006-2016?
  RTI Answer Only BSNL corporate office procures. Belgaum – 250 KM, Hubli -72 KM., MTNL – Mumbai  between 2011-2012= 27586 KM  and between 2015-2016 = 2174 KM
  ISSUE Most of the exchanges did not receive any new cables between 2006-2016. Particularly in Mumbai – MTNL procurement has dropped to less than 10% compared to 27586 between 2011-2012.  So, it raises a fundamental question, why, cables were not purchased/procured?
9 Question Cable laid between 2006 to 2016 in KMs
  RTI Answer Mandya -29,  Shimoga- 670, Bengaluru = 6096 KM, Hubli 2015 = 75l, KM, MTNL Delhi 2006-2016 = 1343 KM
10 Question Why new application connections are refused under “Non-Feasibility reasons”? 
  RTI Answer a)    If pair wire is not available, Non-availability of cable pairs

b)    If Greater than 5 KM

c)    Non feasibility is reported for few landline connections depending upon the availability of cable pair right from the exchange to such premises. The non-availability of infrastructure like distribution point, pillar and not getting permission to lay/attend the existing cable fault from municipal corporate/corporate bodies.

  ISSUE Why cables are not laid and when they are not available? Why cables were not procured? What other factors made it difficult to utilize the exchange capacity?
11 Question Any restraint orders in procuring cables by the Department?
  RTI Answer Nil from all exchanges
  ISSUE So, the earlier governments planned in advance to wind-up the public telecom sector enterprises. Is it so?
12 Question Any restraint orders from laying the cables by the Department, for new connections?
  RTI Answer a)    Subjects to financial availability.

b)    Practical Difficulties in providing landline connection, and delay in getting permission from municipal corporate bodies for digging of roads to lay/attend the cable fault.

c)    Getting permission from the forest area.

  Issue When Exchange capacity were unutilized, why new cables were not procured. And why telecom authority not issued strict compliance orders to local bodies? The core reason for how the cables were frequently destroyed.
13 Question Difficulties in providing landline connections?
    a)    Road works are done by JCB, not manpower. So Frequent Damages

b)    Topological difficulties, Non-Availability of Cable Pairs

c)    Long distances, beyond local areas, Single/Stand alone connections in scattered areas, shortage of cables

  ISSUE In the British period telephone lines were drawn from village to village without any restrictions and no commercial profit factors were kept in mind?

What made the DoT to stop the noble work of giving landline connection to all villages and the importance of communication?

14 Question Standards and regulations used in laying cables, like protected ducts?
  RTI Answers a)    Copper 9 0cms depth, FTTH 165 cms Depth

b)    >10 pair 100 CM, <10 pair 60 CM\

c)    Copper 10 Pair, depth of 3 feet/100 CM, 5 pair 60 CM/2 ft

d)    CGM (TECH & DEV) engineering instructions

e)    45 cms and 100 cms respectively

f)     100 cm and 165 cm

  ISSUE Why different standards were followed and no common system or guideline is not followed? Especially, why duct bay was not demanded from the corporation or local bodies. A permanent cable running duct should have been made mandatory. The Developed countries follow these standards, why cannot we?
15. Question Cables laid without a duct and with duct?
  RTI Answer Chennai BSNL With duct 36.836 Km, 5871.4 KM without Duct
  ISSUE Why the majority of the cables were drawn without the Duct? The core reason for cable damages.
16 Question Whether FTTH can replace a landline, minimum requirements, maintenance, technology, backup and etc?
  RTI Answers a)     FTTH Cost and maintenance is more

b)     FTTH HIGH Investment, Splicing difficult, Too much light meeting with an imperfection can destroy as much 1.5 Kilometers of wire at several meters per second.

c)      FTTH cannot replace landline connections

d)     Cost of installation, maintenance issues

  ISSUE While, FTTH is exactly a landline and FTTH has its own problems? Why landlines which are having unique technologies have been replaced? Whether any such bill passed in the Parliament to destroy landline exchanges?
17. Question Whether installation cost reduces in FTTH?
  RTI Answer a)     FTTH- 4800 RS

b)    There is no compromise for basic telephones

c)      Per FTTH connection costs 15000, if OFC not available

d)     No guidelines

  ISSUE When FTTH is a costly affair, and while India is a developing country and middle and lower middle class are higher, why in the name of FTTH, the landline connections were been put on hold deliberately? Even otherwise, few initial projects went in failure. Then why DoT has not taken any corrective measures?
18. Question Whether FTTH gives uninterrupted function during power failures. For how long?
  RTI Answers a)    UPS Required

b)    I hour, life 2-3 years

c)    ONT needs UPS at home 4 to 8 Hours

d)    1 hour backup

e)    AC current required at customer premises

f)     15 minutes

  ISSUE When FTTH not only costly also requires a AC power, how logical is to think about replacing the 48 V DC landline with Fiber? Both technologies are being distinct; the department should have distinguished the employee salary cost and the existence of landline as different issues. Can we do it now and how?
19 Question Landline Power backup hours by exchanges?
  RTI Answers a)    Landline  4 to 10 Hours

b)    Battery and Engine Alternator

  ISSUE While Landline exchanges are 48 V DC powered, no AC or battery backup required at home. Isn’t that unfair to demand every house to hold AC power and UPS systems for FTTH Equipments? The total cost becomes so high, because the functioning of the telephone is curtailed during the power failure.
20 Question Study on FTTH advantages and disadvantages?
  RTI Answer a)    CET committee, GRE frame of ITU guidelines, growth FTTH preferred. Telephone line 18th Century
  ISSUE If studies were proper, then why FTTH under BSNL and MTNL had failures, even otherwise, why FTTH has not completely replaced by the landline exchanges so far?.
Since, it is not possible to replace each other technology, what correct measures have to be taken now to retain the 6 decade old telephone landline technology?
21 Question Whether FTTH can be provided to an individual house?
  RTI Answer Single connection not restricted, but only if techno commercially viable
  ISSUE While a single landline can be drawn to a village, drawing FTTH to single village is impossible.
22 Question Chennai Flood, any report on non-functioning of mobile networks?
  Answer No answers from Chennai BSNL
  ISSUE nil
23 Question Chennai Flood, any report on non-functioning of landline networks?
  Answer No answers from Chennai BSNL
  ISSUE nil
24 Question Ratio of connections that were working telephone/mobile, during the Chennai flood?
    During the flood, except few exchanges, all telephone exchanges were functioning.
But, during Varadha, All mobile phones were down for 5 days. But, Landlines were functioning within 1 day.
  ISSUE Mobile operators, have not invested or taken any effort to maintain the Towers, neither filled fuel to run their Generator sets, or took no measure.  Therefore, during natural calamities, only the landlines are proved to be reliable.

Therefore, the Government should invest and maintain the landline telephone technology, irrespective of privatization or not.
Can leave the citizens to the suffer in the hands of the Private Tower operators, who just look for profit and avoid using alternators.

25 Question Procedure for approval of new landline connection
  RTI Answer a)    Cost of Wire

b)    Technical and financial feasibility

c)    Subject to availability and non-feasibility

  ISSUE Cost should not be a factor, while reliable technologies are need to be maintained in the nation’s interest, where employment opportunities would be created. It is a balancing system. Therefore, thrust to be given to manpower based technologies, which is actually reliable than the wireless/mobile.
26 Question Number of telephone lineman employed during 1995, 2000, 2005, 2015
  RTI Answer Mandya – 2010 (193), 2015 (159)

MTNL –NEW DELHI 1995(1903), 2000(1454), 2005(917), 2010(301), 2015(24)

Karwar 2004(309), 2016 (177)

  ISSUE Manpower drastically reduced, why salaries were increased so high so it became burdening to recruit new staff?
27 Question Number of installed telephone lines all over India 1995, 2000, 2005, 2015
  RTI Answer -Mandya – 2010(22873), 2015(13077)

-Shimoga – 1995(6215), 2000(10765),2005(5616), 2015(3655)

-Hasan 1995(13839), 2000(49714), 2005(84857), 2010 (52783) 2015(22609)

-MTNL DELHI 1995(200070), 2000(270027), 2005(59501), 2010(97409), 2015(61535)

-Karwar 1995 (16543), 2005 (88926) 2015 (52996)

  ISSUE Number of connections gone down as a cycle wave, they went down to a count when they were first introduced. In 20 years cycle. Connections went up and came down to same place. Is it because, reluctance in the telecom policy. Basic internet should have been made as part of the package.
28 Question Number of telephone lines which were active in 1995, 2000, 2005, 2015
  RTI Answer -Shimoga 1995(67159), 2000(101096),2005(95977), 2015(47659)

-Madikeri  2005,2010,2015 – 6949

-Hasan, 1995(13839), 2000(49714), 2005(84857), 2010(52783) 2015(22609)

-MTNL Delhi – 2015  (67402 registered), (56736 completed)

  Issue nil
29 Question Since 2006, how many new applications received, how may are pending?
  RTI Answer -Mandya- 2008 (2936), 2015 (1213)

-Shimoga – 5000

-Hasan – 51862 received, provided 51862

-Karwar -43185

  ISSUE The efficiency of exchanges differs. Telecom policy and the DoT should have taken a strong monitoring system in improving the efficiency and at the same time, retaining the landline system, even if newer technologies are coming.
30 Question Any plans regarding telephone landline in Digital India scheme, announced by the Government
  RTI Answer –          NGN Switches comprising of all voice and data

–          Yes, at panchayat level landline services for Digital India Scheme-

–          NGN migration is being done.

  ISSUE Even after Fiber cables has been laid, not most villages still have access to internet, except in mobile. On the other hand, Rail-tel has penetrated little better. While, the Mobile technology and its coverage still a problem in many villages where the population is less than 500 and villages that are away from main towers, and are still having signal problems.

Therefore, cable based landlines can never be replaced. Particularly, village level small exchanges need to be built with DC based exchanges.


Probably, the cost of employment and overheads might have been one of the reason, the DoT, and GoI Telecom’s policy is now an anti-landline policy. Secondly, the arrival of Mobile technology though penetrated the reach, the landline is still in demand and such market is being pushed to the private operators like the Airtel and Reliance Jio through fiber and quite high monthly and installation costs.

However, this private provider’s landline is based on the FTTH concept, which involves very high installation and upfront subscription cost, the system cannot work while there is a power failure. Secondly, the cost of subscription per month starts from Rs 499/Average.

On the other hand, users who does not need the internet are many in the count, they just need a basic telephone system, especially housewife, elders, and villagers. The mobile towers are still a problem in the interior buildings, areas, and remote villages. This demand has not been re-solved.

Therefore, like the developed countries, the Telecom policy should be revived, and the landline technology based on the 48 V DC has to be given life and the system should bring in a lot of job opportunities and reliable system.

The reliable system is a major advantage why the DC based landlines have to be given fresh-life.

Some important points for consideration:-

  1. Basic infrastructure like the Exchanges, and cable infra, shall be under the Government’s control.
  2. Whether it is fiber or paired cable.
  3. Supported with huge battery backups.
  4. Performs better during national calamities.
  5. Can reach to interior parts of the house with no necessity to search for signals.
  6. Utilize the existing capacity.
  7. Can still get nominal speed internet to home.
  8. Cheaper installation cost.
  9. Can bring in more employment.
  10. Would avoid private companies taking the ride of the customers.
  11. Private cables have taken over Electric poles and small wind can destroy all the hanging cables, pushing to blackouts.
  12. Mobile/FTTH private companies may go insolvency and desert the business, as it has happened in the past, will happen again.
  13. New technologies and smaller size exchanges based on fiber backbone to be developed.
  14. Can bring-in indigenous research and development of products.
  15. National security can be protected.
  16. Major telecom infrastructures, and R &D, all should be in Government’s control,

The above inputs are based on the RTI information collected and analysis based on my personal opinion. The developed countries still have the infrastructure into their asset; any private operator can use the platform to provide service. Hence, the maintenance, standards, control, communications and management of assets shall rest with the Government.

For any clarifications, I will be happy to clarify.



Advocate, IP Attorney. The issue is taken by me on social interest.