Green is the Buzzword

Powering India’s 5G rollout with sustainable energy: The advantages of solar-powered telecom towers

The rollout of 5G networks has increased the need for reliable and sustainable power sources for telecom infrastructure, particularly in areas where network access is limited or unreliable. As the number of telephone subscribers in India continues to grow, the demand for reliable and sustainable power sources for telecom infrastructure has become increasingly important. With a staggering 1,170.45 million telephone subscribers at the end of October 22, the need for the expansion of telecommunication services in India is more critical than ever before. And as the government of India approved a budget of INR 26,000 crore for the installation of 25,000 new mobile towers in 500 days, this presents a unique opportunity to not only meet the growing demand for mobile services but also to reduce the carbon footprint by installing solar-powered telecom towers.

The statistics on the number of telephone subscribers in India paint a clear picture of the demand for mobile services. Urban telephone subscriptions stood at 649.99 million at the end of October’22, while rural subscriptions amounted to 520.46 million during the same period. The overall Tele-density in India is 84.69%, with urban teledensity standing at 134.08% and rural teledensity remaining at 58.01%. With such high demand for mobile phone services, India needs to consider alternative power sources for its telecom infrastructure.

Solar power has emerged as a viable alternative to traditional power sources, particularly in remote or off-grid locations. The affordability of solar technology, coupled with its environmental benefits, makes it an attractive option for powering telecom towers. In recent years, the cost of solar panels has dropped dramatically, making them a more economical option for powering telecom towers. Additionally, the efficiency of solar panels has improved, allowing them to generate more power per unit of area.

The increasing availability of financing options for solar projects has also played a role in the growing popularity of solar energy for telecom applications. In the past, the high upfront costs of solar installations may have deterred some telecom companies from considering them. However, with the advent of various financing mechanisms such as power purchase agreements and leasing arrangements, the barrier to entry for solar has been significantly reduced.

Increased investment in the sector, as the use of solar power to power telecom towers, grows, it is attracting increasing amounts of investment from domestic and international sources. In recent years, the sector has seen a surge in investment, with several major telecom operators and investors entering the market. This trend is expected to grow as more and more telecom operators look to switch to solar power and capitalize on the many benefits it offers

One challenge traditionally faced by the adoption of solar power for telecom towers is the issue of deriving per kWh cost of generation at par with the grid electricity rates offered by discom utilities along with factors such as cloud cover and weather conditions. However, higher capacity solar panels (540Wp) and advances in energy storage technology have made it possible to store excess solar power for use during periods of low solar insolation. This has greatly improved the economics of solar power for telecom applications.

The trend towards using solar energy to power telecom towers is likely to grow and will play a crucial role in meeting the increasing demand for mobile phone and internet services in India. 

The government’s support for solar power through schemes like the National Solar Mission and allocation of budget for installing mobile towers can also help achieve the goal of reducing carbon footprint. The adoption of solar power for telecom towers in India can significantly reduce the environmental impact of the telecommunications industry, provide a cost-effective and reliable power source, and support the country’s efforts to transition to more sustainable energy.

Authored By: Mr. Sanjeev Chhabra, MD & CEO, Beetel Teletech Limited

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