Street furniture is really important for the 5G network rollout in India, believes Lt. General, Dr SP Kochhar, DG, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).
5G networks would involve frequencies in high-spectrum bands such as 3.3 GHz - 3.6 GHz. With high frequencies, the reach of network signals can be disturbed through basic objects, people, trees, and more.
Thus, to ensure that 5G networks are available with proper coverage with high-capacity, one way to go about it is setting up mobile towers at a distance of every hundred metres or something near that range. However, that doesn’t make sense, believes Kochhar.
“We have to look around in the environment and what we find is electricity poles, and telephone poles, are approximately set up at distances of 100 metres. If we are permitted to just mount our antennas onto these poles, then we have an environment which is readymade, where we can roll out 5G of a very high standard at lower power output, and it will cover about 10 metres to hundred meters, but the capacities will be huge,” Kochhar told TelecomTalk.
“The capacities may go up to 100 times of what we are getting now. Speeds will go up substantially, and therefore we are asking that we should be permitted access to these towers, which we locally call street furniture. It also includes other things such as rooftops of government buildings, and such nature.”
TRAI and DoT Working on Policy for the Use of Street Furniture
Since the electricity poles, mobile towers, and more haven’t been used for setting up small cells as street furniture; the telcos don’t have a clear guideline or a way in sight which can help them in understanding how to best utilise the resources available for rolling out 5G networks. Thus, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) are working to roll out regulations and policies for the same.
“It will not increase the cost for the rollout of 5G. We are asking the government to not charge levies and taxes, and rentals for the use of these poles. A policy and regulation need to be put in place, which is non-existent today to determine how these poles can be used to rollout 5G,” Kochhar added.
But street furniture won’t be required everywhere. In rural areas, mobile towers are sufficient as there’s no real need for high-capacity networks there.
“Both TRAI and DoT are working on this to roll out regulation and a policy. In areas where the capacity doesn’t matter that much, such as rural areas, there we will go for traditional towers as we have been doing so far.”