Jammu & Kashmir

Amid high-speed Internet blockade, Pakistan prepares to expand its telecom coverage in JK

As Jammu and Kashmir continues to witness high-speed Internet blockade, the Imran Khan-led government of Pakistan has readied a plan to expand coverage of its telecom services in JK.

The newly carved union territory by the Government of India is witnessing the high-speed Internet blackout ever since GoI abrogated special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the erstwhile state into two union territories- JK and Ladakh in 2019.

Quoting a top official in New Delhi, a report published by Hindustan Times said that the plan to tweak existing telecom towers and build new ones has been in the works for about a year.

“It was initially conceived to strengthen the existing phone network to help ‘militants’ who have infiltrated into Kashmir. But the Pakistani foreign ministry pushed hard to scale up the exercise to give it the ability to sabotage the communications blockade ordered in Kashmir after last year’s Aug 5 decision to end its special status. It wants Kashmiris to use Pakistani telecom services that cannot be blocked by Indian armed forces,” the report quoted the official as having said.

The restrictions have since then been lifted but local administrations do routinely snap the Internet services whenever any untoward happens. However, if the plan gets implemented properly, it would provide Kashmiris with an alternative to Indian phone companies.

Quoting a top national security planner, the report said that Pakistan’s Special Communications Organisation (SCO) – the state-run firm mandated to provide telecom services in Pakistan-administered  Kashmir and the Gilgit-Baltistan region – had analysed signals from 38 sites along the Line of Control and the International Border with India.

It has told the army that Pakistan could get a spillover effect via 28 existing phone towers. According to its analysis, the GSM antenna would need to be reoriented in 18 locations to achieve this objective though it would reduce the coverage on its side of the LoC.

The blueprint also includes setting up the new base transceiver station in Pakistan administered Kashmir as well as the use of wireless local loop phones in JK. “This plan has been accepted and is being implemented,” the senior official said.

The country is also increasing the signal strength of SCO mobile towers in Pakistan administered Kashmir nearest to Indian sites such as in Cham opposite Baramulla, Leepa opposite Sopore, Upper Neelam Valley and Athmuqam opposite Kupwara and Hillan Meera opposite Srinagar to provide coverage across the LoC, the report added.

In a similar development, SCO is looking at increasing transmission power of TV towers located at Lawat near Muzaffarabad, Upper Neelam and at Khuiratta to provide extended TV coverage in JK.

“These efforts are in continuation of the SCO’s previous attempts to install a small cellular system with Internet-based backhaul that could cover Kashmir towns at some distance from the LoC,” the report quoted another official as having said.


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