The Election Commission (EC) has identified 69 locations in Bihar, mostly in Maoist-affected areas, where its officials will have to use satellite phones in absence of mobile connectivity, during the six-phase assembly polls starting on October 21.
The 'communication shadow zones', as these areas are called, have been identified in consultation with the Home department and spread across 33 rebel-affected districts.
The commission earlier approached the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) to address the connectivity problem, but because of logistical and financial roadblocks the telecom operator could not make much headway.
"The EC has decided to use satellite phones in communication shadow zones, which were identified with the help of the state government and the EC," state Additional Chief Electoral Officer Kumar Anshumali told HT. "We have sent our requirements to the EC."
Patna district magistrate-cum-election officer Jitendra Kumar Sinha said 21 satellite phones would be used in
Patna district, which goes to polls in the fourth phase on November 1.
Besides satellite phones, the EC had also asked the BSNL for digital satellite phone terminals. These are fixed terminal (phones), with a 1.5 to 2-metre diameter dish and solar panels.
BSNL Chief General Manager (Bihar) Vijoy Kumar said as providing mobile coverage in Maoist-affected areas "was not profitable from our business viewpoint", he requested authorities to provide the firm with sites for installation of base transceiver stations, towers and assured power supply in order to establish mobile connectivity in these areas.