Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), industry association for leading Telecommunication Infrastructure Providers such as Bharti Infratel, ATC towers, GTL Infrastructure, Reliance Infratel, Indus towers and Tower Vision etc., have been disheartened with the Gujarat government reiterated that Gujarat tower policy dated October 2012 is outdated and lack enabling provisions for smooth development of holistic robust telecom infrastructure across the state, thereby impacting the overall ease of doing business.
The apex industry body also highlighted that the industry has done several meetings and representations for the formulation of new guidelines aligned with the Right of way rules dated November 2016 notified by the central government but to avail and made no headway.
The RoW policy, November 2016 notified by the central government has enabling features such as no restriction on location of telecom towers, single window clearance mechanism, development of online portal, defined time-period for approvals, appointment of Nodal officers, 1000 rupees per kilometre cost for laying fibre, nominal administrative fee of rupees 10,000 for towers and deemed approvals etc. which if adopted by the States will accelerate the Digital transformation of States.
While the current Gujarat tower policy dated October 2012 have several issues and concerns such as multiple fee levies like annual renewal fee, security deposit and one-time charges for telecom infrastructure installation and escalation of annual fee by 10 percent after every three years etc.
Additionally, the policy imposes exorbitantly high charges for laying the OFC cable ranging from rupees 1000-1500 per running meter which amounts to rupees 10 lakhs per kilometre while the charges prescribed under the Indian Telegraph Right of Way (RoW) rules dated 15th November 2016 issued by Central Government is rupees 1,000 per Kilometre for laying OFC and rupees 10,000 for deploying telecom towers.
Tilak Raj Dua, Director General, TAIPA said “We have been trying to engage with the Gujarat authorities for more than 2 years now however the authorities have been delaying the formulation of a comprehensive tower policy aligned with the Right central government guidelines. A forward looking and enabling policy is essential for seamless rollout of telecom infrastructure, which is bedrock for providing last mile connectivity and facilitating futuristic technologies such as 5G, IoT, M2M, AI and VR etc. Thus, impeding the rollout of essential critical telecom infrastructure.”
It is worth highlighting that other Indian states such as Jharkhand, Haryana, Rajasthan, Odisha, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh etc. have aligned their tower policies with the Central government guidelines.
Further, Dua added “A comprehensive mobile tower policy is necessary for Gujarat state to regain the top rank in ease of doing business index and to make a Vibrant Gujarat. The development of robust telecom infrastructure is essential and critical for achieving Government’s transformational reforms such as Digital India, e-governance, Smart Cities and cashless economy etc. which will also help promoting ease of doing business in Gujarat. Hence, Gujarat government must align its existing policy with the RoW rules to accelerate the dream of Digital India and enhance ease of doing telecom business across the state.”
Today, Gujarat state have more than 27,150 mobile towers mounted with more than 1.12 lakh BTSs serving 69 million wireless telecommunication subscribers. In the near future, Gujarat state need to add double the mobile towers and BTSs in order to connect the unconnected, to ensure seamless network connectivity and rollout future technologies such as 5G, Internet of Things, Virtual Reality and Artificial intelligence etc.