Staff Reporter

Subsidy for service providers for erecting towers

  • Calls for formation of "joint working groups'' in each district to take spot decision
  • Suggests use of non-conventional energy to ensure power availability

    NEW DELHI: In a step that could help faster growth of mobile services in rural and remote areas, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended sharing of telecom infrastructure among service providers. The regulatory body has emphasised the need for "cooperative efforts among telecom service providers with least regulatory intervention,'' as being followed internationally, for faster rollout and better quality of services.

    Active infrastructure

    In its recommendations forwarded to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), TRAI has not only asked for sharing of passive infrastructure (physical sites, towers and power supply), but has also called for sharing of active infrastructure (antenna systems, cables and transmission system) and backhaul (core infrastructure involving switches and networking) on a suo motu basis. Infrastructure sharing would help in reducing the cost of service provisioning, making mobile services better and cheaper, it observed.

    Stating that the entire process should be transparent and non-discriminatory, TRAI said: "The licensees should be required to announce on their website the details of existing as well as future infrastructure installations available for sharing by the other service providers. However, the mode of commercial agreement has been left to the telecom service providers.''

    TRAI has also recognised the need for immediate identification of critical infrastructure sites and called for formation of "joint working groups'' in each district, headed by District Magistrates, to take spot decisions. Similarly, it has sought amendment in the licence condition to allow active infrastructure sharing limited to antenna, feeder cable, radio access network and transmission systems. However, TRAI has not favoured sharing of spectrum at this stage.

    Level playing field

    To provide level-playing field and rollout opportunities to all the licensees, TRAI has expanded the scope of financial incentive for passive infrastructure sharing in rural and far-flung remote areas, besides recognising the need to encourage the use of non-conventional energy sources to resolve the critical power availability issue.

    Chennai Correspondent adds:

    TRAI said the subsidy for erecting towers should also be made available to service providers who are not beneficiaries under the USOF (universal service obligation fund) scheme to maintain a level playing field. It outlined a scheme whereby the subsidy could be provided from the fund to the service provider/infrastructure category-I to erect the tower and share it with service providers. It said the mobile tower design should have the capacity to accommodate at least three service providers to be eligible for subsidy. The passive infrastructure has to be created within one year from the date of registration with the fund administrator. No subsidy shall be paid if the newly erected tower is not shared.

    Local bodies should grant permission to set up towers in notified sites on condition of sharing by at least three service providers.