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Pilot project to share telecom infrastructure

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Move to enable lower tariffs and better coverage

SHARING THE TOWERS: (From right) Mr Dayanidhi Maran, Minister of Communications ⁢ Mr Jaipal Reddy, Minister of Urban Development; and Mr Sanjeev Aga, Chairman, COAI, at a conference on shared cellular infrastructure in the Capital on Wednesday. - Anu Pushkarna
SHARING THE TOWERS: (From right) Mr Dayanidhi Maran, Minister of Communications ⁢ Mr Jaipal Reddy, Minister of Urban Development; and Mr Sanjeev Aga, Chairman, COAI, at a conference on shared cellular infrastructure in the Capital on Wednesday. - Anu Pushkarna

Our Bureau

New Delhi, June 5

The Communication and IT Minister, Mr Dayanidhi Maran, on Wednesday unveiled a plan to set up shared passive infrastructure such as towers for mobile services across the country.

The move is aimed at lowering the cost of offering services thereby enabling operators to reduce tariffs further. This will also result in better quality of service with lesser call drops as operators use each other's network to reach the remotest part of a city or village.

This is part of project MOST (Mobile Operators Shared Towers), a joint initiative of the Government and the industry which kickstarted in Delhi with six cell sites shared by both GSM and CDMA operators. Operators are looking to set up 1,800 shared sites in Delhi by 2007.

Mr Jaipal Reddy, Minister for Urban Development, was also present to unveil the concept at a function organised by the telecom industry. Operators have been running into trouble with municipal authorities over erecting towers within the city. Mr Maran said that the Delhi prototype would be replicated in other parts of the country.

"With Indian operators offering one of the lowest mobile tariffs in the world, we in India have to look at all possible solutions to improve our cost efficiencies and offer increasingly affordable services to our customers. Shared towers will reduce the costs of the operators and the customers will be able to get the quality services at affordable prices. Further shared towers will lead to enhanced aesthetics of the environment by minimising the intrusion of towers," Mr Maran said.

Project MOST

Giving details of the Project MOST, Mr Maran stated that in rural areas also shared infrastructure for mobile roll out would be launched shortly. "A detailed exercise is being undertaken to identify villages in the rural and remote areas which are not covered with a wireless signal and with Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) assistance. It is proposed to create shared infrastructure which will enable telecom service providers to provide cell phones in the identified rural areas," Mr Maran said.

Between 8,000 and 10,000 towers are likely to be set up and this will ensure that almost 85 per cent of the area of the country with wireless signal after completion of the project.

According to Cellular Operators Association of India, there are at present 70,000 towers catering to 100 million mobile users. At this rate 1.4 lakh towers would be needed by 2007 at an incremental cost of Rs 25,000 crore. Sharing the towers would bring down the costs considerably at the same time improve the coverage.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 6, 2006)
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