MCD Seals Over 500 Towers, Call Drops In Delhi May Rise

Mobile phone users in Delhi may face more call drops as the municipaility corporations have shut down over 500 towers in the capital city, says TAIPA or tower and infrastructure providers association. Not only that, permission to set up more than 1000 towers is pending at various agencies in Delhi which is affecting the overall telecom infrastructure of the city as well as aggravating the call drops issue, the association said.

According to TAIPA there are 11,500 telecom towers in Delhi and of this 566 towers have been sealed by various municipal agencies in recent years citing multiple reasons including fees. The association said tower companies have made a payment of Rs 48 crore as fee to these agencies and it is lying unused but the permissions are not granted and on top of that towers are being sealed.

The association that represents tower companies like Indus Towers, American Towers, Bharti Infratel, Reliance Infratel etc says Delhi Tower Policy 2010 asks for a hefty fee of Rs 5 lakh to grant permission, and the same has been challenged by the industry in the High Court.

However, for ease of doing business, in January 2017, Delhi High Court referred a mediation settlement which was signed by the industry with the municipal corporations. The settlement offers provisions such as deemed approval in 30 days, appointment of nodal officers, documentation as per DoT guidelines, and fee part was also renegotiated to Rs. 1 lakh to 2 lakhs.

But, even after a year, the TAIPA says, the mediation settlement has still not been implemented down the line with the municipal corporations and have resulted into the sealing of critical infrastructure worth Rs 113 crores approximately.

“Non-implementation of mediation settlement and lack of comprehensive tower policy in Delhi is creating knotty situations for the development of a robust telecom infrastructure. It is the high time that the telecom infrastructure need to be treated as the essential critical infrastructure like others such as Roads, Transport and water supplies etc. as the formation of new Digital India solely depends upon the enhanced telecom infrastructure. These street furniture enables emergency services, e-governance, e-health and e-education services and in the near future it will enable newer technologies such as 5G, VR, AI and IoT etc,” says TAIPA Director General TR Dua.

He says the ‘suo-moto coercive actions on sealing the mobile towers leads to solemn issues such as slow internet speed, network congestion and call drops etc. The overall regressive act impacts the ease of doing business and forms a misconception that the industry is not making adequate investments. There is an immediate need to notify a comprehensive mobile tower policy for enabling speedy installation of telecom infrastructure in Delhi in order to make city a world class super-fast internet metropolitan.”

The telecom industry is reeling under severe issue of call drops and the same has been plaguing the customers for over 2 years now. Despite providing enough spectrum to service providers, the issue has not yet resolved, and industry attributes it primarily to the lack of enough towers.

“There is a need of 2,00,000 more towers in the country but we got permission to set up only 90,000 last year” says Rajan Mathews, DG, COAI, the association that represents the cellular operators in India. “Towers are being sealed, permissions are not granted and all these factors are increasing the instances of call drops.”

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