MoEF advisory to benefit existing players, say experts

Last Updated: Wed, Aug 15, 2012 18:41 hrs

The latest advisory from the environment ministry, asking the telecom department to limit the number of cellphone towers within a specific area, is likely to benefit the existing tower firms, according to telecom experts.

The new advisory, if accepted and implemented by the Department of Telecommunica-tions (DoT), will encourage passive infrastructure sharing among the companies, increasing the tenancy ratio of the existing towers, they said.

“Limiting the number of towers is definitely going to benefit the people whose towers are already there. It will also encourage infrastructure sharing and lead to higher occupancy of the towers,” telecom analyst Mahesh Uppal said.

“Sharing of towers have already increased efficiency and brought down the infrastructure cost. Further, sharing will definitely help the tower players to leverage their investments and also help telecom service providers reduce the infrastructure costs,” he added.

At present, the tenancy ratio in towers is around two and less than two in some cases, which means less than two players are sharing a single tower. Ideally, a tower could be used by three to four players.

The major existing players in India includes Indus Towers Ltd, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, Reliance Infratel Ltd, Viom Networks Ltd, Bharti Infratel Ltd and GTL Infrastructure Ltd.

“This will not only improve efficiency but also going to prohibit mushrooming of tower. Expansion of the towers had been done in uncoordinated manner,” said B K Syngal, senior principal at Dua Consulting.

With concerns over radiation of mobile telecom services affecting wildlife, the Ministry of Forest and Environment (MoEF) had advised the telecom ministry to limit the number of telecom towers and not allow fresh towers to be within 1 km radius of existing ones.

“To prevent overlapping of high radiation fields, new towers should not be permitted within a radius of 1 km of the existing towers. Sharing of passive infrastructure, if made mandatory for telecom service providers can minimise need of having additional towers,” the MoEF’s advisory said.

According to Towers and Infrastructure Providers’ Association (TAIPA), though there is no guidelines as of now outlining the number of towers to be present in a specific area, players follow self-regulation.

“If a tower is already present within a location, players usually tend to share the infrastructure than construct a fresh tower,” Umang Das, director general of TAIPA said.

TAIPA is the industry representative body of the infrastructure providers who among others service the telecom operators. The industry has already witnessed an overall investment of over Rs 100,000 crore, facilitating more than 400,000 towers supporting nearly 850 million mobile subscribers.

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