Tilak Raj Dua, Director General, TAIPA
The year 2018 will be the year of mergers packed with a lot of actions, developments, discussions, investments, and on-ground deployments, the year will present the bouquet of business opportunities for the Indian tower industry because of policies like Digital India, Make in India, and Smart Cities. Further, the industry will follow its commitment toward turning the Digital India mission into a reality by connecting the unconnected and empowering every citizen of India with the power of internet.
National telecom policy (NTP). The policy aims to achieve 900 million broadband connections and high-quality services that attain average speeds of 20 Mbps for wireless and 50 Mbps for wireline internet connectivity. The goals also include developing 10 million public wi-fi hotspots and placing India among the top-50 nations in international rankings of network readiness, communications systems, and services. Other objectives include enabling access for connecting to 10 billion IoT and M2M sensors and devices and attracting USD 100 billion investment in the communications sector. In order to achieve this, it is needless to mention that the new policy will focus on ease of doing business and on the deployment of telecom infrastructure extending seamless connectivity across the nation.
Clarity on regulatory uncertainties. With the new national telecom policy and extensively supportive policy/regulatory environment, the industry is highly optimistic that the year 2018 will settle down the regulatory and policy uncertainties such as exclusion of IP-1s from RoW policy, absence of uniform RoW policy in states, restrictions on the scope of IP-1s, lack of infrastructure status benefits pending since 2012, nonavailability of inputs tax credit mechanism under GST regime, prioritization of EB connections for mobile towers on preferential tariffs, and security of mobile towers etc.
Consolidations. With the approvals on mergers and acquisitions of telcos/towercos expected early next year, synergies and operational efficiencies will follow the sector thereby improving tenancy ratios and rationalizing multiplicity/duplicity of the towers
Extensive rollout of newer technologies. To meet the growing data demands, the telecom tower industry is extensively exploring opportunities to rollout IBS, wi-fi hotspots, small cells, street furniture, etc. in order to optimize and monetize consumer and business services on mobile devices across 3G, 4G, and wi-fi networks.
Fibrization. With less than 25 percent towers fiberized, the fiber leasing market represents over USD 500 million opportunity over the next year and rising to USD 2.6 billion by FY 20 in order to deliver high-speed internet supporting advanced technologies such as 5G VR, IoT, AI, and turning visionary initiative of Digital India into a reality. BharatNet will contribute substantially to this connectivity mission.
Smart cities. Provisioning of telecom infrastructure by infrastructure providers toward provisioning of M2M, IoT, artificial intelligence, robotics, etc. will support the Smart City projects of Delhi, Pimpri Chinchwad, Bhopal, Indore, Vadodara, Indore, and Pune a reality soon
5G. The government has already created a forum with expert members drawn from academia, industry, MeitY, DoT, etc and committed `500 crore to set up a testing-bed for R&D as well as standards pertaining to 5G in the country in collaboration with the IIT, Madras. Government is keen to provide suitable enabling conditions/licensing framework for experimentation, sand-boxing, research, and licensing for experimentation on 5G technology in the country. Looking at the current telecom infrastructure status landscape, in order to make 5G a success story, infrastructure providers will play a significant role in development of state-of-the-art robust network architecture
Furthermore, in view of rapid technological advancements and emergence of new technologies such as IoT, 5G, M2M, Skynet etc. the policy may also focus on facilitation of these emerging technologies, cyber security framework, and protection of interests of consumers to benefit end users as well.