COAI says telecom tower policies are impacting investment

Telecom tower testingTelecom industry body COAI said issues created by state and local body policies have impacted mobile operators’ plans to make investment of around Rs 9,000 crore to set up 60,000 cellular towers, PTI reported.

This is due to the difference between the rules at the state level and the guidelines notified by the Centre for roll out of telecom networks.

“In last fiscal year, we were to set-up 1.5 lakh towers but due to challenges imposed by state government policies and local bodies, the industry was unable to install 60,000 towers. Each tower costs us around Rs 15 lakh. Investment related to these towers could not be made in last fiscal,” COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews said.

COAI said Indian mobile operators are willing to make the investment to improve services but states and local bodies are not aligning their policies with that of the Department of Telecom’s.

Department of Telecom (DoT) has taken up the issue with each state but only five states- Haryana, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Kerala, Odisha and Maharashtra, have done it till date.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has raised concern over stringent call drop rules issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in midst of right of way (RoW) policy issue.

“Despite the challenge, Airtel and Reliance Jio were fully compliant with quality of service rules. Vodafone is fully complied to one of the parameter and mostly to others. Idea is marginally non-complied for both the parameters in some circles. Aircel has significant non-compliance, driven principally by their recent financial problems,” Mathews said.

“A Mumbai local body asked a telecom operator to pay Rs 1.6 crore per kilometer for laying out optical fibre network. “This is huge amount and business will become unviable if such high rates are demanded,” Mathews said.

As per COAI, there was a cumulative debt of Rs 4.6 lakh crore on telecom operates at the end of the financial year 2016-17.

Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio have committed to invest over Rs 70,000 crore in networks only.

COAI received notice from Noida Authority that some citizens have complaint of hazardous effect from mobile towers and they are going to pull down those towers without following the right of way (RoW) rules of the Department of Telecom.

As per rule of the DoT, the complainant needs to first get mobile towers tested by paying Rs 4,000 to TERM cells of DoT and tower can be brought down if radiation level is above-permitted limits.

“No one opted for the test and Noida Authority plans to proceed without testing the towers. We may take the matter to court as around 80 towers in Noida will be affected due to this arbitrary action,” Mathews said.