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Mumbai, Jul 14: Did you notice that your cellphone is not working when you need it the most?

When Mumbai was attacked on 7/11, cellphone connections failed but there was an alternative that Mumbaikars turned to - the Ham radios.

As the news of serial blasts across Mumbai trickled in on July 11, the first reaction was to reach for the cellphone and ring up the loved ones.

But with 85 lakh cellphones fighting for a small patch of bandwidth, networks crashed.

"If the base station's capacity is less, even the network is probably under-provided for. It is better therefore to try and send SMSes to avoid putting any pressure on the network," says Secretary of Bombay Telephone Users' Association, Achintya Mukherji .

Had the mobile phones worked in those crucial hours, maybe precious lives could have been saved and precious time could have been saved.

If SMS was used instead of callling, six times more contacts would have been made and networks would have stayed up.

Also it would have bee easier to reach outstation numbers. So maybe that uncle in Bangalore could have passed on the message to mom in Bandra.

But with mobile phones on the blink, it was the turn of a new set of people to 'Help All Mankind'.

HAM radio operators dug out their walkie talkies and came to the help of the city.

"I love Mumbai. We consider it a moral duty to sign on to the AIR when disaster strikes. In fact, we carry our hand-helds and rush to the nearest spot of crisis," said Zyros Zend, a Ham radio enthusiast.

Radio fans not only passed on news across the world to near and dear ones, they also helped agencies like the BMC to pick up information across the entire city.

While mobile operators keep promising updated infrastructure with increasing consumer traffic, what every Mumbaikar can do is thank the good samiratan, that lone Ham operator who makes sure the right information reaches the right person when it is needed the most.

What can be done to avoid this crisis

  • The Government should facilitate availability of Spectrum. Spectrum is radio frequency through which voice and data travels. Operators in Mumbai have already crossed the benchmark for allocation of additional spectrum, but it has not been made available as it is a scarce commodity.
  • Mobile operators should share cell sites or towers with each other. This practice has just started in Delhi with four cell sites now being shared by multiple operators.This needs to be made a pan-India affair.
  • There's a need for Infrastructure sharing to be made mandatory. The telecom regulator should look into the possibility of mandatory infrastructure sharing.
  • Finally, clearance for setting up cell sites in congested areas should be given. Operators complain that it is a Herculean task to get clearance from local authorities to set up towers. This process needs to be made more operator-friendly. The more the towers the better the connectivity.
  

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