Lack of Uniform Gujarat Tower Policy Hindering Digital India Mission

Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), industry association for leading Telecommunication Infrastructure Providers such as Bharti Infratel, ATC towers, GTL Infrastructure, Reliance Infratel, Indus towers and Tower Vision etc., today highlighted that existing Gujarat tower policy dated 3rd October 2012 only regulates provisioning of 4G services a particular technology by laying fibre and erecting poles rather than focusing on holistic development of telecom infrastructure through Ground based towers, Rooftop towers, in-building solutions and Wi-Fi solutions etc.

Further, the existing 4G policy also levies multiple fee levies like annual renewal fee, security deposit and one-time charges for telecom infrastructure installation and escalation of annual fee by 10 percent after every three years etc. Additionally, the policy imposes exorbitantly high charges for laying the OFC cable ranging from rupees 1000-1500 per running meter which amounts to rupees 10 lakhs per kilometre while the charges prescribed under the Indian Telegraph Right of Way (RoW) rules dated 15th November 2016 issued by Central Government is rupees 1,000 per Kilometre for laying OFC and rupees 10,000 for deploying telecom towers.

The RoW policy, November 2016 has enabling features such as no restriction on location of telecom towers, single window clearance mechanism, defined time-period for approvals, appointment of Nodal officers, nominal administrative fees and deemed approvals etc. extensively supporting the Digital India mission.

While highlighting the issue, Mr. Tilak Raj Dua, Director General, TAIPA said “The Gujarat state needs to notify a tower policy that is aligned with Right of Way (RoW) rules issued by the central government in order to ensure seamless tower installation across the state irrespective of any particular technology. This will address issues such as call drops, network outage and connectivity gaps etc. which are faced by the subscribers due to the number of limitations imposed on the mobile tower installation, hindering rollout of essential critical telecom infrastructure across the state.”

The industry has also highlighted through a number of representations and submissions to respective authorities for notifying a comprehensive tower policy which is technology agnostic, addresses the need of telecom infrastructure and aligned with the RoW policy.

It is worth highlighting that other Indian states such as Jharkhand, Haryana, Rajasthan, Odisha and Kerala have aligned their tower policies with the Central government guidelines.

Further, Dua added “The development of robust telecom infrastructure is the bedrock for achieving Government’s transformational reforms such as Digital India, e-governance, Smart Cities and cashless economy etc. Hence, State authorities need to align the existing policies with recent RoW rules which will eventually help realising the dream of Digital India.”

Today, Gujarat state have more than 26,000 mobile towers mounted with more than 1 lakh BTSs serving 69 million wireless telecommunication subscribers. In the near future, Gujarat state need to add double the mobile towers and BTSs in order to connect the unconnected, to ensure seamless network connectivity and rollout future technologies such as 5G, Internet of Things, Virtual Reality and Artificial intelligence etc.

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