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5G rollout to get easier once DoT exempts LPBTs from clearance

To allow faster 5G rollout and ensure better coverage in urban areas, the Department of Telecom is expected to exempt the installation of low-capacity 5G transceivers from the existing clearance process, officials said.

This would effectively allow low power base transceiver stations (LPBTS) with effective radiation power of less than 600 Watt to be installed on street furniture such as electric poles, bus stops and traffic lights by telecom service providers (TSPs), the officials told Business Standard.

A BTS is a fixed radio transceiver in any mobile network, most often installed on mobile towers. Being able to install small equipment for 5G services on street furniture has been a key demand of TSPs, which could accelerate their 5G network expansion plans.

In November last year, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had batted for the particular category of LPBTS or small cells in its official recommendations on adopting street furniture for small cell and aerial fibre deployment.

Such equipment, or small cells, should only require permission from the agency owning the street furniture such as power company, or city government or traffic police department and not any central clearances, it had said.

Due to its lower level of radiation, small cells need less stringent security and installation practices, so it is easy to install and operate.

Small cells will also be used for traffic offloading since the carrying capacity of lower frequencies, used by macro radio sites, are limited, TRAI had said.

Officials said the widespread adoption of street furniture for 5G is backed by data collected from pilot studies initiated by TRAI last year at Bhopal Smart City, GMR International Airport in New Delhi, Deendayal Port in Kandla, and Namma Metro Bengaluru.

Small cell tech

Rolling out high-frequency spectrum bands such as 5G in urban areas face challenges as compared to 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. The higher the frequency band, the lower the distance to which it can propagate, as signals in these bands cannot travel through buildings or obstacles.

Therefore, the macro cells for 5G networks need to be complemented with extensive deployment of small cells so as to support all kinds of uses and applications, at all locations. As a result, cells need to be installed as close as 100 metres from each other, down from 3 km earlier.

This has resulted in TSPs relying on small cell equipment for densifying networks and covering signal gaps in urban areas, which will see much higher 5G usage. These cells usually have a short range but can boost geographical coverage due to their higher numbers.

Industry insiders have said up to 200 such cells may need to be deployed in 1 sqkm area of major cities.

After the change in rules, TSPs will not need to go through the clearance process — still the norm for mobile tower installations, officials said.

The DoT had brought out amendments to the existing Right of Way Rules in August 2022. However, TRAI had recommended to amend the rules further to bring clarity on the term street furniture and also to include provision of bulk processing of applications. Business Standard

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