Wednesday, February 23, 2011

No takers for mobile towers on regulatory glitches

Mobile users seem to be latest victims of regulatory uncertainty in the telecom sector, as quality of service remains compromised despite third generation (3G) rollout by most of the operators. Telecom towers, which act as emitting points for cell phone signals, have not been getting added occupancy or tenancy, said two of the country's top three telecom tower companies who did not wish to be identified. 

Mobile phone companies can increase the capacity and consistency of their networks by increasing the number of antennae hosted on telecom towers, but a slowdown in equipment imports and uncertainty over licencce conditions for new operators have put network rollouts on hold. 

Three people familiar with the sector said tenancy of India's largest mobile tower company, Indus Towers -a Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular joint venture with nearly 110,000 towers- has been almost static, and it is likely to remain so for another quarter or so. Tata-owned Viom Networks' tenancy has risen merely 0.1-0.2 per tower to 2.2-2.3 even though the company added just over 1,000 towers in the entire period. Only GTL Infrastructure, the fourth largest and the only independent tower company in the country, seems optimistic about tenancy, as it has almost doubled new tenants each month over the last quarter. 

Launch of 3G services and expansion plans of new telecom operators such as Uninor, Videocon, Loop Telecom, and Etisalat DB Telecom were expected to create a surge in tower tenancy.

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