NEW DELHI: Mobile infrastructure or telecom tower firms are aiming to further cut carbon footprint by reducing dependency on fossil fuel as a part of ‘Go Green’ initiative, and are seeking tax holidays, low-cost grid power and fuel subsidies via USOF (Universal Service Obligation Fund).
The sector has already deployed 90,000 diesel-free mobile sites, according to a lobby group Towers and Infrastructure Providers Association (Taipa) which represents India’s dominant tower firms such as Indus Towers, Bharti Infratel and American Tower Corporation (ATC).
“The industry is asking for the availability of electricity to mobile towers at industrial rates and tax holidays for setting up units in backwards areas,” Taipa director general Tilak Raj Dua told ET, adding that the tower firms are aggressively aiming to use alternate energy resources to reduce diesel dependence.
There are currently more than 4.5 lakh mobile tower sites operational in the country and the tenancy ratio is set to increase to 2.9 by March 2020, according to a KPMG-Assocham study.
The sectoral players as a part of their Green ambitions are increasingly using efficient energy storage solutions to optimise energy usage, and are leveraging high-efficiency batteries such as lithium-ion (Li-ion) and advanced VLRA (valve-regulated lead-acid) batteries at several sites.
Billionaire Mukesh Ambani-owned new telecom player Reliance Jio has already given a Rs 280 crore worth contract to French company Saft which is deploying specialised Li-ion battery systems to power former’s base station sites.
Taipa, however feels that a zero or minimum customs and excise duties on various renewable energy components such as solar cells and modules would further provide impetus to tower infrastructure firms to shift focus to alternative energy resources.
“Government should also introduce fuel subsidies for operators either through USOF or any other alternative mechanism as may be deemed appropriate to remote and rural areas till the power connections become available at industrial rates,” Dua added.
In 2012, the government unveiled Green telecom policy that aims telecom service providers to shift their cell sites to hybrid power resources and declare their carbon footprint on biannual basis, a target which was opposed by stakeholders. Taipa, however argues that no timeline should be given owing to challenges.
Sector regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is revisiting the Go Green targets, and on it has further extended a deadline for counter comments on its consultation paper on finding ways to reduce carbon emissions from mobile networks by April 17, 2017.
Indus Towers, a market leader in mobile infrastructure which is a joint initiative of Bharti Group (Airtel and Bharti Infratel), Vodafone India and Idea Cellular has converted as many as 40%, or 50,461 mobile sites, to zero diesel, and has converted 13,991 sites from indoor to outdoor, reducing power consumption by nearly 30%.
Indus that runs more than 1.22 lakh mobile towers throughout the country has effectively reduced diesel consumption by 10.39% and deployed solar solutions at more than 1,000 cell sites to reduce CO2 footprint.
“One of the accomplishment towards reducing significant power consumption for a tower site has been replacing air-conditioning with free cooling units, lowering the energy consumption by 25-30%, and also reducing the carbon emissions significantly,” Sameer Sinha, Chief Sales Marketing Officer at Indus Towers said.
Sinha added that significant increase in mobile data usage and the advent of high-speed networks exerts tremendous load on power consumption leading to higher costs for customers and greater environmental impact.
American Tower Corporation (ATC) declined to comment for the story.