'Exorbitant' costs keep telecom operators away from Metro

'Exorbitant' costs keep telecom operators away from Metro

Metro commuters may have to keep up with lack of mobile phone network in the underground stretches as telecom service providers (TSPs) are unlikely to come forward to provide connection due to “exorbitant” costs.

While commuters complain about lack of mobile network connections in the tunnels of both the lines, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) officials said underground telecommunications infrastructure has been provided by a private company which bagged the tender for the work.

“The service providers have to pay the American Tower Corporation (ATC) for using telecom infrastructure in the tunnel section. So far, only one company (Jio) has subscribed,” a senior BMRCL official said.

The ATC has 10-year contract with BMRCL.

When asked, spokespersons for major TSPs refused to comment on the issue. However, industry sources said TSPs will continue to avoid Metro tunnels due to the exorbitant costs charged for utilising the telecom infrastructure.

“BMRCL should have invited operators to invest in building the infrastructure. Instead, they tried to monetise it by calling for tenders. TSPs are staring at a washout due to unfair competition in the market. It is unlikely for them to pay exorbitant charges to provide the connection. Operators make decisions based on commercial feasibility,” the source said.

Commuters see it as the responsibility of BMRCL to ensure mobile connectivity underground. “I board Metro around 11 pm. The 20-minute waiting on Green Line are anxious moments. My family members worry when they can’t reach me on phone,” said Prasad Hiriyur, who works at a private company near Trinity Circle.

Part of the problem was the lack of guidelines on such matters. Last year, the Cellular
Operators Association of India, the official representative body of TSPs, suggested Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) do away with the practice of monetising in-building telecom infrastructure in public utilities, which includes tunnels of Namma Metro. “It should be made mandatory to grant permission to TSPs to instal in-building telecom infrastructure,” it said.

In January, TRAI recommended to the Department of Telecom to work with Department of Urban Development to ensure that “suitable provision is made to create common telecom infrastructure inside public places like airports and commercial complexes”.

“Even if the Telecom Department makes it a rule to create common infrastructure inside the tunnels, the application will not be retrospective,” industry sources said.

DH News Service

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