Efforts to reduce call drops in defence regions across the country may get delayed by another year at least as telecom service providers and tower firms face hurdles around copious paper work, time consuming permissions process, and procurement delays in getting clearances from multiple defence bodies.
A senior industry official working closely with operators, towers and the ministry of defence said “It has been seven months of getting permissions from different departments of air force, defence and navy and we have managed to get just a few temporary cells on wheels”.
The senior executive said “We had expected to set up 75-80 permanent operators by this year end, but now it looks like there will be a delay of another 12 months”.
Industry body representing operators too said the delay in tower construction was because of “the complexity of procurement practices in defence establishments”.
“While, the policy has just been notified and operationalisation is taking its time, as there are several procedures in place, when it comes to accessing defence land, of which the industry is both cognisant and respectful, we hope permissions for temporary sites called cell on wheels (CoWs) can come through faster, and help ease network availability, quality of service and congestion issues,” said Rajan S Mathews, director general at Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).
Last September, Union Cabinet gave its nod for revision of the defence ministry policy to allow their land and buildings to be used for construction of towers and allied infrastructure.
It was a much awaited approval and, for subscribers, this meant improved quality of service in cantonment areas that have larger residential tracts and also good reception in many of the domestic airports, which are built near defence areas. The defence ministry gave its approval for the revised policy in February.
Once installed, the towers, about 100 in all, are expected to bring down the issue of call drops in defence areas.
Industry body Towers and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA) though was more optimistic, saying while earlier procuring clearances and tight security in cantonments areas used to further delay the timely completion of towers, this time will be different.
Tilak Raj Dua director general at TAIPA said that “Before the notification of this policy, installation of telecom infrastructure in the said areas had been taking enormous time of more than a year”.