Backend tech rollout for 5G faces roadblocks

Senior industry executives said, there may be a gap in the implementation of 5G technologies due to gaps between most states and the Centre in policies for setting up essential telecom networks .

One such problem is the fee chraged by states on enterprises for building sell towers and laying fibre cables. many states still tax wireless infrastructure providers with annual and renewal rates. This charges are an significant source of income for states, and especially for municipal corporations.

The Union Government introduced the Right of Way (RoW) policy in 2016 to ease the growth of telecommunications networks across the world. The RoW is a mechanism for setting up telephone towers, laying down fibre cables, solving conflicts in a time-bound manner and strengthening cooperation between private corporations, states and municipal authorities.

While the guidelines have been in effect for four years now, only 18 states and UTs have so far agreed to enforce the regulation. The system is yet to be accepted by Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat , Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Puducherry, among others.

“There are states with multiple policies at different levels such as municipal, panchayat etc., which creates confusion and chaos on the ground, thus delaying the telecom infrastructure rollout,” said T.R. Dua, director general, Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (Taipa).

In several states, municipal authorities charge a fee of 10-50 lakh per km in metros, tier 2 and tier 3 cities, while the RoW rules of the Department of Telecom recommend a one-time fee of 10,000 per cell tower and 1,000 per km for fibre laying, Dua said.

Mumbai costs anywhere from INR 91 lakh to INR 1.3 crore per mile, while the cost of Pune varies from INR 55 lakh to INR 1.10 crore. The price is around 15-45 lakh in Hyderabad, and the fee is 6-20 lakh in Delhi / NCR.

Investments of tens of billions of rupees and delays or unfair charges by local authorities could further escalate costs by constructing the backend infrastructure for 5 G rollout needs. According to a study published in October by Motilal Oswal Financial Services, the total capital investment needed for the rollout of 5 G, including bandwidth, sites and fibre, is projected to be INR 1.3-2.3 trillion, of which INR 78,800 crore to INR 1.3 trillion is predicted for metros and A circles.

As previously expected , The rollout of 5G networks still relies, of course, on spectrum exchanges, which do not occur in 2021 . While Reliance Jio Infocomm claims to have built an indigenous 5G solution that can be deployed as soon as the airwaves are available, Bharti Airtel believes that the environment for such technologies is underdeveloped.

According to the 2018 National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP), tower fiberization across the nation needs to be increased to 60 percent from the existing 31 percent in order to support the rising demand for 4 G data and transition to 5 G technology.

Currently, for 2G/3G/4G networks, the bandwidth of each tower site in India is around 300 Mbps (megabits per second) and it would be expected to raise to 1-5 Gbps (gigabits per second) to introduce 5G, which can be achieved by backhaul fiberisation.

“There is a need to deploy fibre across all tower sites to reach capacities of 1-5 Gbps … 5G infrastructure would also entail a multi-fold rise in deployment of small cells, with backhaul on fibre for each small cell,” Dua said.

“Fast paced fiberisation will be the key for enabling smooth densification of network required for 5G services,” Agarwal said. Sterlite Technology is a maker of fibre optic cables that recently collaborated with Bharti Airtel Ltd to develop optical fibre networks across 10 telecommunications circles.

Dua and Agarwal also stressed that the guidelines for the establishment of telecommunications networks by the Centre and the States are not compatible, which generates an urgency for consistent policies and processes to boost connectivity on a macro scale.

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