Cellular operators association has approached Telecom Department to express concern over network infrastructure specification outlined in tender document for USO fund support for provision of mobile services in the North Eastern region.
“The industry believes that the intended objective of the USO (Universal Service Obligation) tender vis-a-vis the technical specifications are significantly distinct from each other. Further, the present specification of the tender would only provide inadequate capacity and will not provide the required coverage in the rural areas,” the cellular body COAI has said in a recent letter to Telecom Secretary JS Deepak.
COAI said building up the network along with proposed tender specifications (on provision of mobile services in identified uncovered villages and mobile coverage along national highways in the NE region) would be a “sheer wastage of USO subsidy”.
The association said BTS specification mention minimum power of 2 Watts instead of 20 Watts as being kept by DoT for 2G/3G/4G networks.
“The difference in coverage will be less than 400 metres versus over 2.5 km with 2 Watts and 20 Watts, respectively, on 900 band, the same difference ratio will be applicable on 1800 bands also. It means that Telecom services providers will be required to install more BTS with lower coverage or there will be compromise on the coverage in villages,” COAI said.
It termed the condition on power back up as “unreasonable and unrealistic”, and said the same should be lowered from 5 days to 8-12 hours, which is the norm for rest of the networks in the country.
Another area outlined by the COAI pertained to the preferential market access/domestic manufacturing clause.
“We believe that TSPs should be allowed to decide their vendors as already being done by them under the licence agreement. The requirement of tender document should compliment the existing telecom infrastructure of the telecom service providers so that it attracts maximum participation with less subsidy during bidding,” it said.
COAI suggested that given the current security environment in the remote areas, the Telecom Department can “consider dealing with such issues of damage of equipment and disturbance under the Essential Services Act etc.”
It had also suggested the upfront payment of subsidy on commissioning of tower and provision of mobile services from an infrastructure site, should be about 50 per cent and not 25 per cent, given the project roll out involves upfront capex spends.