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As space for towers shrink, call drops to worsen in Lutyens’ Delhi

 With the removal of towers from Indian News Paper Society (INS) building recently and coercive pressure to remove another tower cluster near Ram Manohar Lohia hospital by a ruling party Member of Parliament, the network strength in the area is set to deteriorate.

Notably, Parliament and Raisina Hill area is served by a tower cluster at the Press Trust of India (PTI) building and a few odd antennae opposite Air Force Headquarters traffic square. Since PTI board consists of the same media house owners as in INS board, there is an increasing feeling that even PTI building towers will be removed soon. INS board had asked the industry to remove the towers as they felt it causes health hazards for its occupants, mostly media persons.

Industry sources said that after Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tightened the noose on Telecom Service Providers (TSP) on the complaints of rise in call drops, Sanchar Bhavan has agreed to allow towers atop its building. The NDMC which manages all the government buildings are yet to allow telecom companies to install towers or antennae over them in Lutyens’ Delhi. A tower typically caters to 20,000 people and Raisina Hill alone has a number of huge mobile users and an equally large number of visitors.

The situation is worsening after Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had asked the TSP to compensate for the call drops, a move that faced stiff resistance from the industry. TRAI had proposed Re 1 as compensation to subscribers for call drops. In a recent submission, the TSPs have described the move as “coercive, grossly unjust” that could shave off 3-5 per cent of the industry’s $36 billion (Rs 2,37,600 crore) annual revenue and force carriers to raise tariffs.

The call drop situation in the rest of Delhi is yet to show any respite as many as 200 towers are in various stages of threats by the residents and the various municipalities. Only earlier this year Noida authority had cancelled the leases of the tower landlords in the area, only to be stopped by the courts later.

The industry has been representing the governments, including Urban Development Ministry to allow its land and buildings for installation of towers to overcome the situation. However, the high charges proposed by the governments do allow its land and buildings have been a dampener for the industry. 

Recently, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation had decided to auction its buildings and land for installation of towers. The one-time deposit of Rs 5 lakh and Rs 60,000 per month rent ensured that no tower companies bid for the space with them. The industry had already contested the Rs 5 lakh one-time deposit by the Delhi government earlier in the High Court.
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