Suara.com – Bringing internet signals to remote areas of Indonesia is not as easy as turning the palm of your hand. Obstacles and threats are things that need to be overcome in order to provide a network.
A message suddenly came to Farras’ cell phone. The company called him again to complete the 4G base transceiver station (BTS) project initiated by the Telecommunications and Information Accessibility Agency of the Ministry of Communication and Information (BAKTI Kominfo).
Farras was ordered to repair a 4G BTS site located in Boven Digoel Regency, South Papua. It didn’t take long for him to fly from Newsdelivers.com to Mopah Airport in Merauke.
“Around the beginning of October 2022, I was assigned to go to Boven Digoel,” recalled the 28-year-old man to Suara.com—who refused to publish his real identity, Sunday (19/11/2023).
When he arrived in Merauke, Farras still needed about a day to get to the 4G BTS location. Much of the travel time is spent traveling in two vehicles, from a car to a small boat.
A car that accommodates four passengers is the only public transportation to one of the districts – which are usually known as sub-districts – in Boven Digoel.
“There I asked the residents about the BTS site. Where is it located? Is it dangerous or not? The residents said it was good, I continued,” he said.
It turned out that Farras needed to follow the river to get to that place. As a result, he had to board a small ship, a distance of around eight hours.
“Here’s the proof,” he showed off when showing a video of his journey along the river.
“If it doesn’t light, I’ll shoot your arrows!”
Farras’ frightened expression appeared when he described the welcome of local residents when he arrived at the location. The arrow was pointed about 3 meters from his face.
All day long his movements repairing the 4G BTS were continuously monitored by local residents. At exactly 12 o’clock at night he could calm down because the tower had successfully transmitted a signal.
His face lit up when the network remained smooth on his cell phone screen when he checked again at 5 am. Farras’ hard work all day—who repaired the tower alone—seemed to pay off by seeing that residents there could enjoy a signal to communicate.
“It turns out it’s as simple as that, the important thing is on-air. Residents can communicate again when on-air. There is a network, they are happy. On the phone,” he said, relieved when he found out that his life was safe that day.
Farras explained that the resentment of the residents in Boven Digoel village arose because they were annoyed with the previous teams who failed to repair the 4G BTS. He suspects that the lack of communication is a factor in why the facility is not functioning.
“Perhaps there is minimal communication to coordinate with other teams outside the site. Blank spot, difficult to get a signal. Once there is a signal we have to walk 3-4 km first. “You even have to climb a tree first to get a signal,” he said.
The 4G BTS construction project is being promoted by the Indonesian Government to serve 12,548 village points that are not yet served by a 4G network. Of that total, BAKTI Kominfo built 9,113 points in the frontier, outermost and underdeveloped areas, aka 3T areas. Meanwhile, the remaining 3,435 which are non-3T areas are assigned to cellular operators.
Main Director of BAKTI Kominfo Fadhilah Mathar explained that 9,113 points were then evaluated again until they narrowed down to 7,904 locations. Then, after a joint study was carried out with the BAKTI Kominfo Task Force, the construction was reduced to 5,618 points.
Director of BAKTI Kominfo Fadhilah Mathar during a press conference at her office in Newsdelivers.com, Tuesday (24/10/2023). (Suara.com/Dicky Prastya)
“In addition to ensuring that all legal issues are clear first, the reduction in development points is due to the entry of private parties in several 3T areas according to the survey results of the Ministry of Communication and Information,” said the woman who is familiarly called Indah at a press conference at the BAKTI Kominfo Office, South Newsdelivers.com, Tuesday (24/10 /2023) ago.
Meanwhile, BAKTI Infrastructure Director at the Ministry of Communication and Information, Danny Januar Ismawan, said that of the total 5,618 points, 4,343 4G BTS towers had on-air status, meaning they were ready to serve the public.
“There are an additional 630 sites ready for on-air. “So there is 4900 4G BTS potential that can be fully utilized when it can be done, meaning resolving legal cases, there is contract certainty,” said he, who was also present at the event.
Danny admitted that there were still 600 points that needed to be done in a special way. The reason is, most of the locations are located in Eastern Indonesia, Papua.
“Most of the (4G BTS locations) are in areas that are problematic from a security aspect. (Later) the location will be separated to be resolved with more special treatment. “Maybe involve friends in the TNI-Polri,” he added.
Chairman of the BAKTI Task Force and Special Staff to the Minister of Communication and Information, Sarwoto Atmosutarno, said the same thing. He said that there were 641 4G BTS tower locations in a state of force majeure due to security and regional issues which turned out to be beyond predictions.
To overcome this, Sarwoto said that the BAKTI Kominfo Task Force would carry out relocations, use new technology such as satellites, and collaborate with local communities.
“The recommended solution is relocation, use of new technology (satellites), and accepting new proposals from the 3T regional community for installation with approval from the regional head (Regent),” he said when contacted by Suara.com via WhatsApp, Wednesday (22/11/2023) .
Executive Director of the ICT Institute and telecommunications expert, Heru Sutadi, believes that Papua does have its own challenges for BAKTI Kominfo. He explained that Papua is a difficult region to build a 4G BTS project.
“So there are indeed areas where it is difficult to bring 4G BTS materials,” he said when confirmed by Suara.com via WhatsApp message, Wednesday (22/11/2023).
When traveling by land, for example, Heru continued, there are several roads in Papua that are inadequate. Likewise for the 4G BTS location which is located in a mountainous area, where Heru said that access to it requires additional transportation such as a helicopter.
“So when it comes to building a tower, don’t think about just tower materials. On the one hand, there are tower materials, but on the other hand, there are also materials for building towers. So indeed, whether we admit it or not, it has its own challenges. “Unlike other regions, it is quite difficult to build BTS in Papua,” he explained.
Heru continued, another factor that makes it difficult to build BTS in Papua is security issues. He said that there was a threat there from the armed criminal group (KKB).
He recalled past events, where KKB threats had resulted in casualties, including in the 4G BTS project.
“Challenges like this must be solved together, right? “The Ministry of Communication and Information or BAKTI cannot work alone,” he added.
There are many solutions that Heru suggested to BAKTI Kominfo to build BTS in Papua. First, they must coordinate with the local regional government.
Because they are the ones who understand more about the area. He also encouraged the involvement of the Regional Government to accompany the Kominfo 4G BTS development process.
Second, BAKTI needs to collaborate with the TNI-Polri to guarantee project security. Third, the government must involve local residents in building the tower. Heru believes that the public must also receive education and socialization about the effects of the presence of 4G BTS.
“Apart from that, we must provide education and socialization that the construction of this BTS is also for them, so that they are not isolated from the outside world, and can progress like other regions, right?” he explained.
In this way, it can make people aware that the presence of this facility will have an effect on improving the local economy.
Heru also agreed on the solution in the form of relocating BTS if necessary. The condition is that the tower move is not far from the initial location plan. Heru thinks that relocation should only move within the RW, not the village.
Lastly, the solution offered by Heru is to utilize other technology such as satellites. Papuans can still get network from the Satria 1 Satellite if 4G BTS is not possible.
“It can solve various problems. “For example, it is difficult to access areas in the mountains, road access is difficult, that can be replaced with satellite technology,” he said.