What telecoms need: uniform guidelines or more investment?

Mobile users

CEOs of telecom operators and their industry associations such as COAI, AUSPI and TAIPA urged the government to ensure uniform guidelines for cell sites and right of way (RoW) across the telecom circles in India.

The demand for uniform guidelines is coming at a time when there are wide spread complaints that Indian telecoms are not investing enough in mobile networks and small cell sites to address call drop issues. In fact, telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad urged Indian telecoms to reduce call drops or face action immediately.

Comparing with global telecoms, Indian mobile operators are investing small amount in networks. For instance, Bharti Airtel has a projection of $2.2 billion capital expenditure for fiscal 2015-16. The company is focusing more on data networks to boost revenue from India. For comparison, AT&T, the top telecom operator in the U.S. will be investing nearly $18 billion this year as Capex to expand networks.

Incumbent telecom operators — Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone India, Reliance Communications, Tata Docomo, etc. — have invested INR 24,000 crore or nearly $4 billion towards capital equipment in 2014-15 to ensure network coverage and capacity enhancement.

Mobile consumers are complaining about call drops and poor services in Chandigarh, Delhi NCR, Jaipur, Bhopal, Patna, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai and North-East due to the availability of limited mobile networks.

“Roadblocks in installation of cell sites and arbitrary shutting down of operational ones is leading to network congestion and spotty coverage, further resulting in inconvenience for the customers,” they said during a press meet in Delhi.

# State bodies’ actions against towers without prior notices
# restrictions imposed by Municipalities coupled with sealing orders being issued
# power supply issues
# difficulties in getting clearances for installing sites
# non-renewal of lease due to reasons such as EMF related misconceptions
# fiber cuts due to other infrastructure projects

# implement DoT’s tower guidelines in all Indian states
# draft guidelines against any possible coercive action on cell sites without the consent of State TERM cells
# solve issues paying a nominal one-time administrative fee to recover administrative expenses
# grant all requisite permissions, time-bound Single Window Clearance of applications and priority of provision of electricity connection to cell sites

They said more than 10,000 telecom sites are not operational due to some of these reasons across cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Patna, Jaipur, etc. Telecoms need to invest in putting up 100,000 telecom sites in the next couple of years to achieve targets as per the digital India program.

Indian mobile operators’ spectrum holding per subscriber is up to 1/4th that of the Chinese players. But Indian telecoms are not investing heavily in networks as compared with China and the U.S. This is also one of the reasons for poor network quality.
The telecom industry has invested approx. Rs 750,000 crore in the last 20 years to provide seamless connectivity to over 950 million mobile users.

Indian telecoms have committed more than Rs 109,000 crore in the spectrum auction held in March 2015 itself. In 2014-15 alone, the industry committed INR 134,000 crore+ towards development of networks.

Baburajan K
[email protected]