Telecom tower providers have pleaded with the government to be included in an inter-ministerial panel’s deliberations on the financial woes of the industry, saying they lack policy support despite having invested more than Rs 250,000 crore. 

In a June 13 letter to telecom secretary Aruna Sundarajan, the Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (Taipa) said it wants the inter-ministerial group (IMG) to delve into issues of levy of property tax, exclusion from availing input tax credit under the goods and services tax (GST) regime and from availing benefits under the right of way rules— issues that were affecting the financial viability of the companies. 

“We request you to consider infrastructure providers (IP – I) also for the meeting with the Inter Ministerial Group,” the association said. 

The letter, a copy of which is with ET, said, “The telecom infrastructure industry requests that under the GST regime input credit should be available for all procurements including telecom towers. It highlights what tower providers say are untenable property tax demands by municipal corporations and local bodies, by way of “sealing, dismantling and demolition of tower sites”. 

The association which counts companies like American Tower Corp, Bharti Infratel, Indus Towers, GTL Infrastructure and Reliance Infratel among members, informed the secretary that to create robust telecom infrastructure, tower companies must be assured regulatory and policy certainties. India has more than 400,000 telecom towers that help in delivery of voice and data services. 

The letter pointed out that imposing higher duty on lithium-ion batteries when imported for telecom operations, than when used in electric vehicles, could lead to significantly higher operation cost for carriers. Fuel accounts for about a third of operational expenditure for tower providers. 

Taipa also asked for allowing IP-1s to create infrastructure on government land and buildings, permission for which has been restricted to only telecom service providers. “The guidelines have caused confusion on the ground,” it said. 

The association also flagged the government’s recent notification which excludes tower providers from benefits under the Right of Way Rules, 2016. “This is a retrograde step which will force service providers to invest individually on their respective infrastructure.” The letter said.

Taipa had, earlier this week, flagged issues around right of way and access to government buildings, with the telecom regulator. - ET


 

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