Indus Towers, which recently merged with Bharti Infratel and formed the largest tower company with over 163,000 towers stated that it would in-line with the Government of India’s vision of ‘Digital India.’ We got a chance to interact with Indus Towers’ Chief Technology Officer & Chief of Regulatory Affairs & Sustainability, Indus Towers- Manoj Kumar Singh regarding the company’s future plans and about the National Communications Policy 2018. Read on to know Manoj’s views on NDCP 2018 and Indus Towers motive going forward.
What are your views on the draft National Communications Policy 2018?
Firstly, the way Government has named the policy itself shows that it does not want to restrict itself to the only telecom but aims to unlock the transformative power of digital communications networks and wants to include broader areas like country’s information and communication infrastructure. Earlier it used to be called National Telecom Policy.
The overall draft of the National Digital Communications Policy 2018 has addressed the major issues while focussing on the holistic growth of the sector. The new draft — ‘National Digital Communications Policy 2018’ — aims to attract $100 billion investment in the sector, create 40 lakh jobs by 2022 and ensure broadband coverage at 50 Mbps for every citizen. The new policy also covers emerging areas like IoT, Cloud Computing, M2M, 5G, AI, Cyber Security, IPR. It will further boost the various government initiatives like Digital India, Smart Cities programme, Financial Inclusion, BharatNet programmes etc.
For telecom infrastructure players, provisions like Rights of Way permissions for telecom towers in government premises, exemptions for construction of mobile towers and facilitation of establishment of tower infrastructure by incentives is a right step. Security of physical telecom infrastructure. The Policy has also proposed a broadband readiness index for states and UTs so that they can get investments and handle RoW issues. It also proposed to create a collaborative institutional mechanism between Centre, States and Local Bodies for Common Rights of Way, standardisation of costs and timelines; and removal of barriers to approvals. All these will benefit the industry and help in creating the base for future technologies.
Provisions like providing universal broadband coverage at 50 Mbps to every citizen, 1 Gbps connectivity to all Gram Panchayats of India by 2020, deployment of public Wi-Fi Hotspots to reach 5 million by 2020 in the policy augur well for the industry players.
With the governments’ focus on smart city and green telecom, can you highlight Indus’ initiatives regarding the same?
With sustainability and environment at the core of all initiatives, coupled with the management’s approach of Design Thinking, Indus is contributing towards India’s Smart City initiative by exploring collaborations with Central and State level government departments to provide NextGen Digital Highway. Indus has partnered with local municipal bodies to utilise electric poles as micro-towers for offloading data traffic. e.g. Indus has collaborated with NDMC and Karnataka State Govt. for setting up infrastructure to enable WiFi connectivity in dense urban areas. We also worked closely with the Vadodara Smart City Development Limited, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for implementation of Smart City projects in the city.
With a focus on technology innovation, the company rolled out a nationwide initiative of Aesthetic Sites – catering to the need of building smart cities with beautiful city landscapes. The Aesthetic Sites are a unification of world-class technology and innovation, location aesthetics and environmental considerations. These Smart Towers are designed to keep Zero Noise and Visual pollution and have a minimal and compact footprint.
On Green Telecom, Indus Towers has done some phenomenal work. Indus Towers Ltd adopted “Environment” as one of its core values. Indus cell sites have telecom equipment that requires 24X7 year-round continuous power supply to support the service. Due to unreliable grid power availability in our country, Indus is forced to rely on Diesel generators as backup power. Indus Tower’s Green Sites Project was conceived to counter the need of diesel usage for the power back up without compromising the network uptime. Launched in August 2011, the Indus Towers Green Sites Project was flagged off with six major cities – Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Palanpur & Gandhinagar – being declared ‘Green’. Green Cities are those cities with telecom sites within the limits of the Municipal Corporation, where no diesel would be consumed for cell site operations. We also saw a huge opportunity for site level transformation in many pockets where conversion of cities at the current level of technology was not feasible. Accordingly, the project focus transformed to a more micro level from “Green City” to “Green Sites”.
Currently, over 60,000 sites, comprising over 50% of Indus’ portfolio of towers, are Green and in the coming 4-6 years, we have the vision to be diesel-free in our operations. We have continued to reduce our diesel consumption and yet deliver record uptime. This represents an opportunity for us to feature telecom as an energy efficient sector. We have also continued our focus on reducing diesel consumption further by removing AC’s from our sites and developing new age battery solutions for telecom tower environment etc.
Tell us more about Indus’ innovative technologies. What impact do you think does innovation play for efficient deployment?
Innovation is at the heart of Indus Towers. Apart from Green Sites, Indus has come up with innovative ways of reducing expenses using technological solutions deployed at these sites. As all telecom equipment work under a temperature-controlled environment, we need to operate air conditioners at all the sites. By installing various types of Cooling Units, we allow heat transfer between the ambient and shelter when the temperature is low (winters and night time). This heat transfer results in reduced energy consumption and carbon emissions. Additionally, there are sites which have Smart Battery charging solutions for faster charging, leading to energy savings and this leads to the use of DC Diesel Generators results in savings in operating expenses. These innovative solutions helped us to reduce GHG emissions and cost. This initiative drew attention from the Industry, and Indus was leading them to adopt this environment-friendly best practice.
The company has also implemented the state-of-the-art energy efficient products which empower the maximum electricity board (EB) utilisation in lower voltages. We introduced modules which benefit the sites with frequent single phasing issues. Other energy efficiency products are also launched with low energy losses. These solutions have ensured a further reduction in carbon footprint of the site. Significant investments in various energy initiatives have led to millions of litres of annual diesel consumption over the last six years.
What are the opportunities for the players in the current telecom scenario? How does Indus plan to make the most out of them?
With the draft of the new National Communications Policy 2018 out, the government has made its intent clear- they are seriously looking towards the holistic growth of the sector- be it an investment or job creation and accelerate development of next-generation technologies and services. Emerging areas like IoT, Cloud Computing, M2M, 5G, AI will all require the robust digital network to operate. Therefore, the sector can expect some good action in these areas.
Smart City initiative is an excellent opportunity for infrastructure players like Indus Towers to enable digital backbone for the cities. The various smart services of these Smart Cities would be riding on a broadband highway (whether fibre or wireless) and Indus Towers is a key enabler of such infrastructure. Indus Towers will continue to invest in opportunities related to Smart Cities and look for collaboration with competent stakeholders in this area.
Increasing data usage and the rollout of next-generation 4G/VoLTE networks will help the Indian tower industry to continue its growth journey in the coming years. Indus Towers will be looking beyond traditional business models and leverage opportunities in areas such as Fiberisation, Wi-Fi Hotspots infrastructure, Smart Cities etc. We look forward to increased cooperation from the Government as the IP players will play a pivotal role in the faster roll-out of digital infrastructure and thereby establishing ubiquitous connectivity to achieve Digital India mission of the Govt.
What kind of challenges are there for the tower players in the industry? What are the possible solutions for it?
While the new National Digital Communications Policy 2018 has addressed the issues, e.g. RoW, Safety & Security of infrastructures, incentive, uniform tower policy, online permissions in time bound manner etc. Key to its success would be on-ground effective implementation.
What are Indus’ core vision and values to encourage sustainability and CSR?
Indus Towers’ commitment to act as a responsible member of the business community as an investor, employer and consumer, is founded on a basic premise of our vision ‘Transforming Lives by Enabling Communication’. We believe that Corporate Social Responsibility is all about taking positive action, treating our stakeholders with respect, applying consistently high standards to everything we do and playing a constructive role in the communities in which we operate. It is our commitment and proud privilege to contribute to India’s present and future growth. At Indus, we measure our performance not only in terms of what we do but also how we do it.
For Indus, energy and climate change are very important areas and consider them as one of the core values adopted by the company. Indus Towers aims to inspire, guide and help ingrain sustainability within and across the business.