The Pune Cantonment Board (PCB) is taking steps to minimize, if not eliminate, call drops in its limits by installing more cellphone towers.
On the heels of a revised telecom policy approved by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) earlier this year, the PCB has recently set up a committee comprising officers from the signal corps and Pune Sub Area, representatives from the board as well as the Defence Estates Office (DEO) of the Pune zone.
The committee has been tasked with identifying locations to install mobile towers in the military and civilian areas of the cantonment. While the military locations will be approved by the southern Army Commander, the civil areas will be finalized by Principal Director Defence Estates (PDDE) of southern Command.
“An officer of the rank of colonel will head the committee. The first meeting of the panel is likely to take place this week to chalk out a plan of action,” a senior army officer, who did not wish to be named, said.
The old policy on cellphone towers was not in favour of telecom companies, a senior officer from the Director General Defence Estates (DGDE), said. “Only cell tower on wheels (COWs) were allowed in the cantonment area, that too only for two years. But as per the new policy, telecom companies now can install static as well mobile towers for 10 and 5 years respectively in cantonment areas. This will certainly provide an impetus to telecom companies to strengthen their network in the cantonment,” the officer said.
At the moment, there are 17 towers owned by different telecom companies in PCB limits. “But this is not an adequate number of towers to cater to the cantonment's requirements. As a consequence, poor mobile network and call drops are among the most common complaints we receive from citizens. The addition of more mobile towers will improve the network scenario significantly here,” D N Yadav, chief executive officer of PCB, said.
“Since no telecom company has a strong network here, several are willing to expand their base here. So far, six bidders have expressed interest in setting up towers in the cantonment limits,” a senior PCB official said.
PCB generates Rs5 crore annually as rent from telecom companies. “With more towers, the board would generate about Rs10 crore annually,” the official added.