- The past year was an eventful one for the telecom sector, with developments that could alter its growth story in the coming years. There were several positives on the policy front while the expansion of 4G services by operators and the exponential increase in data demand led to an accelerated roll-out of towers and increased tenancies.
- RoW rules were announced to facilitate the installation of mobile towers and optical fibre. The government permitted sharing of active infrastructure, including spectrum, which will help in bringing down operational costs considerably. Spectrum allocation was done in a smooth and timely manner. The state governments, too, were proactive in bringing out industry-friendly policies to foster the development of communications infrastructure in their states.
The ambitious PPP project, BharatNet, to connect all rural areas finally made some notable progress. About 75 per cent of the work on Phase I of the project was completed by end-2016 and the remaining is on schedule to be completed in time, by March 2017. Providing a further boost to the project, the government has allocated Rs 100 billion to the project in the Union Budget 2017-18.
- Data uptake registered a phenomenal increase, especially wireless broadband services. This was facilitated by telecom operators' migration to data networks, which has, in turn, created vast opportunities for infrastructure providers. Besides providing plain tower services, these companies are now exploring opportunities in the areas of in-building solutions, fiberisation of sites, microcells and Wi-Fi hotspots.
- Meanwhile, the telecom industry is witnessing a wave of consolidation among telecom operators as well as tower companies. Monetisation of tower assets, either by sharing or fully offloading them, has emerged as a key strategy for debt-laden operators to seek fresh capital. In a key deal, RCOM entered into a definitive agreement with Brookfield Infrastructure and its institutional partners to sell a majority stake in its tower business.
- While the tower industry's underlying trends have been positive, it continues to face several challenges. The issue of call drops has brought the tower industry's role into sharp focus. The lack of adequate mobile towers is being cited as the key reason for the poor QoS.
- Managing escalating energy costs is another key concern area for tower companies. They are increasingly using automation and real-time monitoring solutions while also adopting green and energy efficient solutions. Batteries and storage solutions have become a key part of a tower company's energy management strategies.
- The issues notwithstanding, in terms of future opportunities, programmes such as Digital India and Smart Cities will call for new infrastructure development to enable pan-Indian connectivity. The unprecedented growth in the adoption of digital services like payments, e-governance and entertainment will facilitate further investment in the telecom infrastructure space.
The mission of this conference is to examine the key emerging trends, study the impact of recent policy and regulatory developments, discuss the opportunities and challenges, and showcase the latest innovations and most promising technologies. The conference will also provide industry stakeholders a platform for sharing experiences and exchanging ideas.