The government will soon come out with regulations to allow telecom operators to enter into agreements for sharing of network-related infrastructure or Common Telecom Infrastructure (CTI), a move that will not only bring down operational cost of these companies, but also check the menace of call drops. Last month, the Telecom Commission (TC) approved the recommendations made by Trai for sharing of in-building infrastructure by operators. It decided that operators should be allowed to share infrastructure on mutually agreed basis. TC has also asked Trai to work on an alternate mechanism that would aid in sharing of CTI, sources said. TC is of the view that this will aid in checking call drops as well as ensuring better services for customers regardless of the operator. A top Trai official said such arrangement will help in checking call drops as some estimates suggest that around 70% of mobile calls originate from inside buildings. According to the Department of Telecom’s (DoT) IVRS feedback system, the problem of call drops is more severe indoors.
The Trai official explained that there are losses in signal strength of wireless services when it penetrates building walls. While such services suffer from poor in-building coverage, the problem is more pronounced in case of high-data rate services as they require a much better signal quality than voice. Hence, for improving in-building coverage and offer better quality high data rate services, there is a definite need to install in-building solutions (IBS). Operators face several issues while laying cables or installing telecom infrastructure inside buildings like building owners entering into exclusive agreement with one operator or company, thus creating an artificial barrier or exorbitant rates charged by building or mall owners, etc.
Trai has recommended that operators should be mandated to share their in-building infrastructure — IBS, optical fibre cables, etc — with other operators in large public places like airports, hotels, multiplexes, etc as well as commercial and residential complexes. Operators should not be allowed to enter into agreements that results in exclusive access or lessening of competition, it has suggested. “It is understood that Bureau of Indian Standards is in the process of framing National Building Code of India (NBC) under which some provision for CTI housed inside buildings for convenient provision of telecom services are being envisaged. It is essential that suitable enabling provisions may be kept in the NBC,” Trai has said.
NBC is a comprehensive building code that provides guidelines for regulating building construction activities across the country. The regulator also suggested that DoT take up the matter with the urban development ministry to ensure that suitable provisions for creation of CTI inside newly constructed public places should form part of model building bye-laws. A DoT official said the department will meet officials in the urban development ministry regarding CTI inside buildings likely by next month.