In one of my previous posts, I discussed a bit about the coverage issues in the Northern areas of Pakistan. Now lets take a look at the cellphone coverage problems faced while traveling, specifically while commuting through trains. The coverage has improved a great deal on the motorway and other major highways of Pakistan but the railway passengers still face a lot of problems. So lets put some light on this issue.
Here I am going to narrate my personal cellphone coverage experiences during a train journey. Early this year, I had the chance to travel to Rawalpindi via Pakistan railways. As soon as the train left theÂ area, the signals dropped to a minimum level. Then the signals dropped dead for the rest of the journey till we reached Hyderabad, where they gained ample strength. Since I was traveling with users of all mobile service providers, I was able to notice that the signal’s quality was the same for all cellphone companies. As the train embarked on a journey to interior Sindh, the signals strength ranged from poor to below average interspersed with total signal black outs. The same situation followed throughout the journey, the signal quality was poor most of the times. It only improved when the train was passing through the urban areas.
Now here is some food for thought. Pakistan railways carried a passenger load of more than 72 million in the year 2003, according to a World Bank Report. It may have increased to over 80 million as the railway has introduced some new trains with improved speeds and services (Like one between Rwp-Lhr, which covers the distance in merely four hours). Keeping in mind the cellular revolution of Pakistan, it can be expected that of these 80 million passengers, at least 60 million would be cell phone users. Now I do not know why all the cellphone companies are ignoring the fact that millions of their customers suffer due to missing cellphone coverage.
Why is it a big deal? Cellphone usage has become such an essential part of our lives. A long train journey is the perfect time to followup with clients, call old friends, update your family about your journey status, etc. Instead, on my way to Rawalpindi early this year, I felt like I was thrown back to the stone ages.
The coverage can be provided by installing towers along the railway lines. I know that it’s almost impossible to totally cover the railway tracks with cellphone towers but at least a major chunk of that area can be covered. The towers should be installed in such a way that the signal strength remains at an average level throughout the journey. The railway authorities need to acquire land sites for these towers (PR has plenty of land sites by the way).
I request the concerned authorities to look seriously into this matter and I hope that they will be able to solve this issue in the near future.