‘Uniform national tower policy needed to address call drops’

New Delhi, Aug 17 (IANS) Aiming to address the problem of call drops in the country, telecom operators have demanded uniform guidelines for cell sites and right of way (RoW) across telecom circles in India.

“There should be a uniform national tower policy, which is implementable across the length and breadth of the country,” Gopal Vittal, managing director and CEO (India & South Asia), Bharti Airtel, said.

“We need to raise our voice for a common policy. Telecom is part of our everyday life,” Sunil Sood, MD, Vodafone India, said.

The telecom industry also urged the state governments and other relevant bodies to help implement the Department of Telecom’s tower guidelines in all Indian states, and draft guidelines against any possible coercive action on cell sites without the consent of state Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring (TERM) cells.

Around a dozen top telecom honchos were present to address a press meet here on call drops and cell sites organised by Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (AUSPI) and Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA).

Pointing to charges that call drops were a results of inadequate investments by the telecom industry, Himanshu Kapania, managing director, Idea Cellular, said that all operators had jointly invested Rs.1.34 lakh crore ($22.4 billion) in 2014-15.

“In the first seven months (January-July) this year, 70,000 cell sites were rolled out,” Kapania said.

“To grow in voice and data services, India needs another one lakh towers over the next 24 months,” he added.

He said the telecom sector contributed 3.5 percent to India’s gross domestic product (GDP). The telecom industry had invested Rs.750,000 crore in the last 20 years to provide connectivity to over 950 million mobile users.

“Telecommunications is a public utility service and has emerged as the backbone of the country in times of peace and crisis. However, challenges posed by the actions of local authorities across the country act as a hindrance to the further growth of the industry and will act as an obstacle to providing seamless connectivity to the subscribers,” COAI director general Rajan S. Mathews said.

“The need of the hour is to institutionalise a uniform code/rules for setting up telecom infrastructure across the country, which will help provide the best of telecom technology and services to the citizens of India,” he added.

Asked whether the telecom companies should be disincentivised or they should provide compensation to customers for call drops, Vodafone India MD Sood said local bodies should be charged as they do not have a uniform policy for setting up mobile towers.

The industry leaders cited several challenges they faced in installing mobile infrastructure due to reasons varying from state bodies’ actions against towers without prior notice, restrictions imposed by municipalities coupled with sealing orders and power supply.

They also face difficulties in getting clearance for installing sites, non-renewal of lease due to reasons such as electro-magnetic field (EMF)-related misconceptions and fibre cuts due to other infrastructure projects etc.

Mobile networks in cities like Chandigarh, Delhi NCR, Jaipur, Bhopal, Patna, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai and the north-east are being impacted by the presence of limited and restricted network and infrastructure.

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