Fani, the extremely severe cyclonic storm, has torn apart Odisha's telecom infrastructure after pounding the state's eastern coast near Puri on May 3.
Government officials estimate the loss to range between Rs 500 crore and Rs 800 crore. The detailed reports on devastation to the telecom infrastructure facilities is being worked out. The summer storm of intense severity has wreaked damage on the telecom operators facilities in Puri, Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, crippling mobile and landline services.
At Puri, the site of the cyclone's landfall, a staggering 91 per cent of about 800 BTSes (Base Transceiver Stations) have been damaged extensively. In Bhubaneswar region and Cuttack district, the damage to BTS is assessed at 35 per cent and 38 per cent, respectively, though sufficient to precipitate major disruption in phone networks. Bhubaneswar has 1,800 BTS towers while Cuttack district is home to 1,200 towers.
With the cyclonic storm paralysing trunk infrastructure, telecom operators have been directed to mobilise cell on wheels (CoW). The state government is supporting the operators by providing them generators to run the services as power still eludes about half of the consumers in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.
“Electricity is being provided on priority basis to the telecom operators”, said a government official overseeing the restoration of telecom network in the state.
Private telecommunications service provider Airtel is taking steps to restore connectivity and resume operations in the cyclone-hit regions.
It has deployed 13 CoWs in Puri-Bhubaneswar belt to re-establish connectivity and improve network coverage. Jio and Vodafone are also taking measures to provide services through CoW.
For providing telecom services in the remote locations affected by the cyclone, the Department of Telecommunications has permitted intra-circle roaming (ICR) which allows users to avail services of other network operators in Odisha. Despite all interventions, full restoration of telecom services is still a few days in the waiting.
“It is expected that about 50 per cent of the network in Puri will be restored within seven days. Complete telecom services will be restored in Bhubaneswar tentatively in four to five days. The loss of revenue could not be ascertained," said the official.
Fani has affected 14 districts in the state, knocking down essential services like power and water supply apart from telecom. Official figures have pegged the human casualty due to cyclone at 41.
"While the state government had undertaken a massive drive by evacuating about 1.5 million people to safer locations, the loss to infrastructure is gargantuan," said another government official.