Controversy enlivened the 2nd International Conference Green Telecom India 2010-India’s only event on Green Telecom here today over the allegedly high level of radiation and pollution from telecom towers and equipment including handsets.
Highlighting the lack of regulations on radiation and other pollutants from telecom towers and equipment, Rajiv Mehrotra, president of Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association (TEMA), asked why it was the same foreign manufacturers who were implementing extremely low levels of radiation for their equipment in their countries were not using these technologies in the items they were selling in this country.
According to international data he read, out of global pollution of 3.8 million tonnes , as much as 2.8 million tonnes was generated from India even though India had less number of cell phone subscribers. Mr. Mehrotra alleged “double standards” in the case of foreign manufacturers. The TEMA chairman’s contention however was countered later by director-general of Cellular Operators Association of India, Mr. Rajan Mathew.
“One telecom tower company uses two billion liters of diesel “Mr. Mehrotra, who is also founder chairman and CEO of VNL pointed out.” In the West they do not radiate at such high power in the tower” he added. He also raised the danger from huge use of diesel. “One base station leaves 60 tons of carbon dioxide a year.The numbers already installed spew 6 million tons of CO2 every year. More cells, more noise and more radiation” he remarked recalling that cell phones and towers would reach out to 6 laky villages soon.
His remark that sparrows die from radiation from these towers raised a stir in the audience of telecom operators and executives. “There is no law to regulate these” he regretted. He called for immediate government action to enforce international standards here.
However, Director-General of Cellular Operators Association of India, Rajan Mathew revealed that a joint study of EMF of telecom equipment in 100 locations conducted by telecom operators, IIT Madras and Madurai Engineering College found that in each site the level was a thousand part of what international standards mandated.
The total pollution level from the entire ICT industry was only two per cent of the pollution in this country. As telecom industry forms less than half a per cent of the ICT total, the pollution from it alone could not be alarming, he contended.
Mobility being the major driver of communication in the country with wire lines very much limited, the cell phones were seen as having a disproportionate impact on pollution, Mr. Mathew contended.Another major reason was the extremely limited availability of spectrum in India as against the wider range allotted in the developed countries. This forced the Indian operators to install more cell sites to reach out to larger populations with lower allocation of spectrum.
Another cause was license requirements for a certain level of roll out of the service. “The operators have no choice but to make the best use of the lower spectrum resources” the COAI DG pointed out. However, the operators were now moving from passive infrastructure sharing to active infrastructure sharing. To reduce pollution, operators were using base stations that do not require air-conditioning. Diesel gensets were being substituted with hybrid ones. “We are aware of our responsibility” he stressed.
Batting for greater use of non-conventional energy sources in telecom energy scene, Dr. Bibek Bandyopadhyay, adviser , Ministry of new and renewable energy, detailed government support for these technologies. Though initial costs of solar panels was high, the life cycle costs were economic and new materials like titanium dioxide in place of highly pure silicon were being tried that would reduce costs significantly. “We are working out cost reduction techniques in use of renewable sources” he revealed.