Cell phone spells doom for coin collection phone boxes

S. Harpal Singh
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Out of use:A discarded coin collection telephone box in Adilabad district.—PHOTO: BY ARRANGEMENT
Out of use:A discarded coin collection telephone box in Adilabad district.—PHOTO: BY ARRANGEMENT

The rural poor in Adilabad do not seem to mind paying more to stay ‘connected’ as long as they are free from constraints of time and place that come with use of fixed line telephones and the coin collection boxes (CCB). The ‘liberating’ cell phone has brought sudden death to the CCB which had offered cheaper and better quality of communication network to people living in remote and hilly areas of the district not so long ago.

It is in the last two years that most of the private cell phone operators have expanded their reach in the countryside despite the difficult terrain. The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has the maximum penetration and its service is available even in the far mountainous places like Mangi in Tiryani, Parandoli in Kerameri and Sarkepally forests in Wankidi mandal.

Prior to this expansion, telephony in the rural areas depended mostly on the public call office (PCO) or the CCBs. All the major telephone operators had laid extensive underground cable network linking almost all the difficult places in the district.

“As the CCB telephony was assumed to be ideal for a district like Adilabad, telephone operators had spent huge sums of money on laying cable networks. At one stage in 2008, over 15,000 CCBs were functional in the rural areas in this district, the BSNL accounting for about one third of this number”, recalls an employee of the BSNL.

The establishment of the Wireless in Local Loop (WLL) technology during the period in question had made the operation of CCBs even easier. Decreasing call rates and the higher rate of ‘commission’ offered to CCB operators in villages subsequently had also boosted the growth of coin box telephones in numbers.

Cheaper instrument

The arrival of much cheaper but multi-functional mobile instrument in local markets liberated the poor folk even from the clutches of expenditure. The substantially lowered cell phone call rates enabled the poor the luxury of owning an instrument for themselves and conversing with friends and relatives while on the move.

Till a few years ago, telephony in the rural areas depended mostly on coin collection telephone boxes, but the advent of cell phone has rendered waste the extensive underground cable network laid by the operators



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