India to upgrade mobile networks near Maoist insurgents to 4G

They're currently on 2G – a tactic the government uses to suppress communication

India's government has announced it will permit upgrades of mobile networks from 2G to 4G in regions claimed to be hotbeds of a Maoist insurgency.

The nation's Ministry of Home Affairs prefers the term "left-wing extremists" but says the dominant ideology among such groups is a form of Maoism that "glorifies violence as the primary means to overwhelm the existing socio-economic and political structures." The Ministry therefore operates a division dedicated to preventing such extremists from building capacity.

The government combats the extremists with security operations and efforts to advance development of the 70 areas identified as hotbeds of Maoist insurgency. It's felt that insurgents want locals to feel under-appreciated by Delhi, and impoverished compared to those in other regions, as doing so will create sympathy for their cause.

A new decision – taken by national cabinet – allows universal service obligation funds to be deployed on upgrades of 2G networks to 4G affairs.

Improvement of communications for security and law enforcement personnel is one reason for the upgrade. Others include improving access to government online services, banking, tele-medicine, and remote education services. India's government is all-in on digital services, so leaving those living near insurgents with 2G is not likely make them sympathetic to New Delhi's cause. Perhaps faster internet will show locals and insurgents alike that India is addressing their needs and grievances.

The decision does not, however, mean that areas inhabited by insurgents will always enjoy 4G service. India suspended wireless internet services for 550 days in Jammu and Kashmir, the Muslim-majority state that it stripped of semi-autonomous status in 2019. That decision was justified as a way to make life hard for insurgents supposedly sponsored by Pakistan.

India's use of internet slowdowns and blackouts has earned it criticism from human rights groups around the world, while state government shutdowns have been criticized by India's own Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology - especially those imposed to stop cheating during exams.

Cabinet's decision calls for the 4G kit installed in the contentious regions to be made in India, in line with the nation's self-sufficiency and industry development plans.

5G is yet to arrive in India. Limited trials have taken place, and wide-scale deployments are expected to commence late in 2022. Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, which operates the nation's largest mobile telco, has created what it claims is a complete 5G solution that it will both deploy for its own needs and offer to carriers worldwide as a managed service. ®

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