Hundreds of mobile towers sealed in Delhi, call drops to intensify

  • Mohit Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 09, 2015 11:08 IST

Experiencing frequent call drops and weak mobile internet signals? An MCD drive against mobile towers operating without proper permits may be the reason.

As per official data, the Delhi's three municipal corporations have sealed 266 such towers in the last two months, giving rise to connectivity issues in areas under their jurisdiction. And the problem is likely to escalate with operators being served showcause notices for 500 more towers, sources said.

According to corporation officials, more than half of the 8,500 mobile towers under their jurisdiction are in violation of safety rules. “Before erecting a mobile tower, the structural safety of the building has to be checked.

An approval from the municipal corporation is also required. However, as per data, more than 4,500 mobile towers are operating without proper permissions,” said an official.

“The total number of mobile towers before trifurcation (of the MCD in 2012) was 5,252. This number has increased exponentially in the last three years. None of these newly-erected towers have paid one-time fees due to the corporation and most of them are in violation of building bylaws,” another official said.

Fewer mobile towers means increase in the number of “dead zones” — areas outside the range of a mobile tower — in the city, resulting in frequent call drops, a menace for which telecom regulator TRAI has proposed penalising service providers.

Among the city’s worst affected areas are ITO, Dwarka, Hauz Khas, Indira Gandhi International Airport, Trilokpuri, Connaught Place, Lajpat Nagar, Patparganj, Friends Colony, Punjabi Bagh, Daryaganj, Civil Lines, Pitampura, Vikas Puri, Patel Nagar, Rajinder Nagar and Greater Kailash.

“We have to struggle to find a good place for proper signal. We stand in one place in our own house to make calls. Calls have been dropping mid-conversation for several weeks now. Internet too has taken a hit,” said Dinesh Kumar, a resident of Janak Puri.

Mobile phone operators had approached the Delhi high court in 2010 against MCD’s decision to change its policy on the establishment of such towers. As part of the policy change, the corporation had hiked one-time fees paid by operators for each tower from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.

The hike may have prompted service providers to take a legal recourse, a senior corporation official said.

When contacted by HT, operators Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular said it was an industry issue and the Cellular Operators Association of India -- the apex body representing all cellular operators in India excluding Reliance Communications and Tata’s CDMA operations -- was the right forum to address it.

COAI director general Rajan Mathews said, “The MCD has to follow what courts have said. They are supposed to explain us the reasons for removing the towers. Whatever reasons they have given have been contested, for which there is no reply from them. We have followed all the rules, regulations and guidelines. Let them first follow the courts directives.’’

Indus Tower chief V Shantaraju remained unavailable for comment.

Read:Make more profits but end call drops too: Telecom minister

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