Telcos fret over hike in tower installation costs in Delhi

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Kolkata: Consumers in Delhi could soon face big disruptions in mobile broadband coverage with the processing of applications for setting up new telecom towers virtually coming to a grinding halt after telcos and tower companies have objected to the recent 150% jump in tower installation charges.

Mobile tower installation rates, recently revised by two Delhi municipalities, have risen sharply from around Rs 2 lakh per tower for a 5-year span to Rs 5 lakh per tower for a 5-year period, a senior industry executive aware of the matter told ET.

Each application for setting up new mobile towers in the national capital will also attract an additional one-time levy of Rs 10,000 towards administrative expenses. Further, such installation charges will rise by another 25% if a tower is shared between multiple telecom carriers.

Both North and South Delhi municipal corporations, have in separate circulars, dated January 21 and January 5 respectively, said “the revised installation charges for cell towers/poles would be Rs 10,000 per month or Rs 1 lakh per annum,” adding that in case of tower-sharing between telcos, an “extra 25% would be applicable“ per instance of such sharing. ET has seen these circulars.

Problems have got aggravated as one of the local municipality online portals that accepts applications for new tower installations in Delhi is not functioning regularly due to technical snags. As a result, even older applications for setting up mobile towers that were filed last November 2020 could now attract higher installation charges that are effective from January 5 and January 21 in the SDMC and NDMC jurisdictions respectively.

Telcos and tower companies have sought the Department of Telecommunications’ immediate intervention.

“We have recently apprised telecom secretary Anshu Prakash about the surprise decisions of two local Delhi municipalities to unilaterally increase the cell tower installation charges without discussing the matter with the operators and tower firms,” said another industry executive. He added that “a failure to resolve the matter quickly” could trigger disruptions in mobile coverage in the capital.

Matters have come to a head as both Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio continue to grow their 4G user base in key markets like Delhi, especially as strong mobile data consumption continues to remain strong amid the continuing pandemic with vast swathes of India Inc still working from home.

ET’s queries to Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents Airtel, Jio and Vodafone Idea (Vi), did not immediately elicit a response. Queries to the Tower & Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA) also remained unanswered. The TAIPA represents Indus Towers, ATC, Summit Digitel, Ascend Telecom and Tower Vision amongst others.





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