Powering over any type of buildings and spaces without any control will no longer be easy for cellular companies in Punjab with the state government deciding to bring a mechanism to regulate the unabated installation of telecom towers.
The Punjab Information Technology (IT) Department has been directed to carry out a comprehensive census of all existing telecommunication towers in the state in the next one month.
Punjab's IT Minister Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon is concerned at the unregulated mushrooming of telecom towers across the state in recent years and the survey is being carried out to know how bad things are on the ground level.
“There is a need to insist upon multiple usage of the telecom towers so that every telecom company does not set up its own towers to cover the same area and generate unnecessary congestion, noise and vibrations arising out of accompanying generators,” Kairon told senior officers from various departments at a meeting here.
He suggested that a mechanism should be in place fast so that the future growth of telecom towers can be regulated.
Punjab has a high density of mobile usage with roughly 1.6 crore (16 million) mobile users for a population of around 2.5 crore (25 million). There are thousands of landline phone subscribers as well.
The tele-density of the prosperous state is nearly 46 percent – more than double the national average of 20 percent. While one out of every five Indians has a telephone nationally, almost one out of two Punjabis has a telephone.
Telecom giant Airtel leads the subscriber figures with over 4,581,187 subscribers (till January) followed by BSNL (3,411,009), Idea-Spice (3,081,186) and Vodafone (2,923,706). There are a few other telecom players in the market as well.
While some telecom companies share their mobile towers, in several areas most companies have installed their individual towers, leading to congestion and air and noise pollution.
Mobile companies in Punjab had three years ago installed three mobile towers in Punjab's territory behind Chandigarh's famous Sukhna Lake giving an ugly look to the tranquil surrounding of the lake. Since Chandigarh itself has very strict regulations to curb the uncontrolled installation of telecom towers, the Punjab mobile companies took advantage of laws in Punjab to put up the towers.
Following objections from authorities in Chandigarh, two of these towers were later removed.
Kairon called a meeting of senior officers of the IT, local self-government, rural development and panchayats, industries, Punjab small industries and export corporation, Punjab state electricity board and Punjab pollution control board to discuss the disorderly growth of telecom towers in the state.
“A state-level census of existing telecom towers has been ordered because at present, none of the five or six departments receiving applications related to the construction of such towers has complete statistics about the number of such towers which have cropped up all over the state without any permission, a senior official, who attended the meeting, told IANS.
The Punjab government now proposes to draft a state-level Telecom Towers Regulatory Policy within the next few months.
A study group has been constituted under the principal secretary for IT, Sarvesh Kaushal, to explore how many telecom towers are required actually to cover the entire geographical area of the state and the minimum optimum number of nodal telecom towers that should be jointly used by all telecom service providers.
The new policy would include comprehensive guidelines for setting up telecom towers in residential areas, commercial areas and in the rural areas of Punjab.
The policy will prescribe strict specifications regarding natural disaster and earthquake-resistant structural design, construction material and least polluting telephony and electricity generating equipment and recommend uniform fee structure.
Issues related to receipt of applications at centralised single windows, prescribing timelines for various processes and fees and others will also be addressed by the policy.