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Infrastructure Providers 2.0 : Making India Digitally Ready

Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), industry association for leading telecommunication infrastructure providers recently held its 3rd formal Annual General Meeting 2018 themed as Infrastructure Providers 2.0: Making India Digitally Ready. The AGM emphasized on the proactive role of infrastructure providers to facilitate a robust telecom infrastructure for smooth rollout of newer technologies such as 5G, IoT, M2M, IoT, AR, and VR etc., thereby making India digitally ready.

New Opportunities for TowerCos as well as insights into what can be expected from the upcoming NDCP 2018”, covering the regulatory/ policy initiatives for expediting telecom infrastructure rollout

The AGM 2018 deliberated on the enhanced version of the infrastructure providers and termed it as infrastructure providers 2.0. The theme signifies the evolution of new business opportunities that the IP-1 will foray into such as street level infrastructure, in building solutions, infrastructure for smart cities, common ducts, fiberization etc that will accelerate deployment of telecom infrastructure and give fillip to the realization of visionary programs of the Government of India like Digital India, Smart Cities, and BharatNet.

There is a need for enhancement of scope of the IP-1s as it would result in cost efficiencies by leveraging the sharing concept to the newer business model such as leasing out common duct, fiber, etc. on a non-discriminatory basis. For example, sharing of towers have resulted in potential savings of Rs. 23,000 crore, since 2006 due on CapEx savings for creation of telecom infrastructure.

Manoj Sinha, Minister of State for Communication said, “The tower industry enabled a rapid growth in telecom subscribers as the number of telecom towers have increased from a meagre 1,00,000 towers in 2006 to well over 471,000 currently.  The industry currently boasts a tenancy ratio of over 2 and have about 1.8 million BTSs installed on their towers. The Indian tower industry introduced a unique ‘Infrastructure Sharing’ model which has many benefits like reduced CapEx & OpEx, increased connectivity, faster roll-out and, energy efficiency, which offers a ready-to-go solution to operators helping in building a scalable and successful Indian business model which is proven and is now being emulated world over including China.  The same is also a case study at Harvard Business School. The robust telecom infrastructure will help implementation of the visionary programs of the Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi like Jan-Dhan Yojna, My Gov Online, Make in India, Digital India, Smart Cities, Financial inclusion, Direct Benefit Transfers, etc.”

Further Sinha added “The upcoming NTP-2018 will be a forward-looking policy and will enable the sector to have a successful future.  Our special focus is on fiberizing of towers, which will enable newer technologies to come into play like FTTH, IBS, DAS, etc.  Implementation of Smart Cities projects across the country will give a fillip to the way the telecom sector will enable everyone in everyday lives from smart homes, smart traffic management systems, smart waste management, etc.”

While addressing the AGM, Akhil Gupta, Chairman, TAIPA and Vice Chairman of Bharti Group and Executive Chairman of Bharti Infratel Limited said, “We appreciate the unconditional support from the Department of Telecommunication and TRAI since the inception of Indian tower industry. The government has placed a lot of thrust on making the emerging technologies like 5G, IoT, M2M, and AI accessible to the consumers. Fiber will be crucial to meet the increasing consumer demands as data is going to be the mainstream. In India, only 25 percent of the telecom tower are fiberized whereas in USA, China, and Japan more than 75–80 percent of the telecom towers are fiberized to meet growing data demands. The enhancement of scope of the infrastructure providers is essential and a critical part of the overall telecom ecosystem, as they facilitate adoption of technologies of the future and make India digitally ready. The draft NDCP 2018 also emphasizes on fiberization of 60 percent of the BTSs.”  

During the welcome address, Tilak Raj Dua, Director General, TAIPA asserted “Infrastructure Providers will continue to play a pivotal role in infrastructure expansion for establishing ubiquitous connectivity for emerging technologies. The enhancement of scope of infrastructure providers can extensively facilitate the development of robust telecom infrastructure and is much needed. Deploying next generation infrastructure such as street level smart infrastructure, intelligent poles, micro sites, in-building solutions and public Wi-Fi hotspots etc., will make India digitally ready. The infrastructure players are also contributing toward the marginalized sections of the society through their various CSR activities as well as going beyond the call of duty to restore services during the time of natural calamities to keep the networks up and running.”

The industry has adopted a slew of initiatives to reduce diesel consumption at the telecom tower sites. Initiatives such as diesel free sites (sites consuming one liter diesel a day), conversion of sites from indoor to outdoor, energy efficient storage solutions such as Li-ion batteries, and renewable energy solutions are increasingly being deployed to ensure uninterrupted power supply and minimize the use of diesel at sites.

Regarding the implementation of Right of Way rules 2016, it was shared during the AGM that around 10 states have aligned their policies with the said rules. While for others, the association is in active discussions.

Further, Dua said “We would like to thank DoT and TRAI for including Infrastructure Providers under the purview of Right of Way rules, 2016. The positive development will lead to higher momentum in the rollout of telecom infrastructure. Also, it is worth highlighting that with the rigorous follow-ups and serious efforts the industry could get 10 states aligned with the said rules and is in active discussion for others”.

Dr R.S. Sharma, Chairman, TRAI has highlighted that the scope and boundaries of the existing registration regime needs to be expanded to allow them to lead and deliver in the era of this digital transformation. Further, he also added that the digital transformation is becoming more of a reality than just being a concept. To spread the impact and unlock its true potential, there is a need to create smart and robust telecom infrastructure to cater to the next generation of technologies.

Amitabh Kant, in his message in the TAIPA Annual Report 2018 highlighted the contribution of IP-1 to leapfrog into a knowledge driven economy by providing the requisite telecom infrastructure for future technologies. A well-developed telecom infrastructure is necessary for realizing the initiatives of  Smart Cities, Digital India, Financial Inclusion, and BharatNet.

Aruna Sundararajan, IAS, Secretary (Telecom) said that infrastructure players will play a leading role in bringing technologies like Artificial Intelligence, 5G, IoT and M2M to reality as well as bridge the rural – urban divide. The vision of Digital India and BharatNet shall become reality with high speed broadband service riding on rollout fibre wherein the role of infrastructure providers becomes pivotal. Expanding coverage in the rural areas, promoting affordability and value through innovation for every customer segment will make a difference to the quality of lives. Secretary (T) also applauded the role of IP-1s during the time of natural calamities and emergencies to help the people stay connected with each other.

The AGM was graced by Ministers and Senior Government officials from DoT, TRAI, and State Government officials who shared their thoughts on infrastructure providers role in making India digital ready.

Manoj Sinha, Hon’ble Minister of State for Communications (Independent Charge) and Minister for State for Railways was the chief guest, Dr R. S. Sharma, Chairman – TRAI, N Sivasailam, Special Secretary, DoT were the guests of honor.

Telecommunications in India has emerged as a key driver of economic and social development in an increasingly knowledge intensive global scenario. The telecom infrastructure facilitates connectivity 1.2 billion subscribers through 4,74,000 towers housing 18.5 lakh BTSs. In the past one year, almost 1000 BTSs have been added daily to connect the unconnected. – CT Bureau

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