Phones remain dead for months due to digging works

With hundreds of telephone lines in suburban Chennai remaining dead for over four months due to cable damage during works executed by Metrowater, BSNL has started deploying Wireless in Local Loop (WLL) instruments as a stop-gap measure to retain its customers in these areas.

Attempts at coordination

Though the two departments have been trying to coordinate the extensive digging works in the suburbs to minimise the downtime in restoration of lines when a cable gets damaged, there are several areas where telephones have not been workingfor months now.

The worst affected areas include Avadi, Kilkattalai, Kovilambakkam and Medavakkam. In many places, Metrowater contractors have been using JCB vehicles that cause heavy damage to underground cables, sources said.

“Though there is an arrangement for linesmen and supervisors to be present at the work site to instantly repair cables that get damaged, there is little that these teams can do when extensive damage occurs repeatedly,” BSNL Chennai Telephones Chief General Manager A. Subramanian said.

Nevertheless, efforts are on to prioritise line restoration in badly affected areas, he said.

Meanwhile, fearing a large-scale erosion of its subscriber base, BSNL Chennai Telephones has now started offering WLL phones free of additional charge served by its CDMA network to its customers in these affected areas.

“We have been offering WLL phones on a selective basis and as a stop-gap measure in areas that have CDMA coverage,” said an official.

Originally, the WLL phones, driven by a network of CDMA towers, were intended to provide telephone and Internet connectivity to otherwise inaccessible terrain.

The WLL subscriber base for Chennai Telephones is only about 35,000, and a good number of these constitute the segment using BSNL's data cards (EVDO).

Stopping desertions

Though BSNL's WLL expansion strategy has more or less been low key for over a year now, the technology is coming in handy to stop desertions in Chennai's suburbs.

Poor browsing speeds on the WLL platform which runs on a network of 165 towers has been cited as one of the reasons why the CDMA-driven technology has failed to take off.

The broadband services being provided through the copper pair used for fixed phones give a much superior Internet experience, an official said.

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