Caught between complaints of call drops and quality, and rising opposition from residents because of radiation-related health concerns, the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI), an umbrella body of seven major telecom operators, has appealed to the Maharashtra government to frame a uniform policy that will ease the process of installation of more mobile tower antennae in the state.
In a seven-point letter sent to state chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya on Thursday, the association demanded that norms be made less stringent to install mobile tower antennae on government-owned buildings.
If the government accepts this demand, around 3,000 government buildings in Mumbai can become available as locations for setting up mobile phone base stations.
“The current government has shown tremendous vision by giving thrust and focus to Digital India, smart cities and inclusive growth, which is achievable only with a robust and scalable mobile network. For providing seamless connectivity without any gaps, it is required to have a continuous mesh of cell sites in the mobile network architecture,” said the letter written by the COAI, a copy of which is with HT.
The letter added that the state governments and local authorities had not been able to devise by-laws and state-specific guidelines, which could address the concerns with regard to non-adequate telecom network coverage.
“Until now, we would approach private buildings and cooperative housing societies to set up base stations, as the procedure to seek government sanctions was very time-consuming. We think the government must make its procedure to allow installation of base stations on its own buildings simpler,” said a COAI representative, on condition of anonymity.
“Government buildings are well spread out in all important locations and hence can be crucial to enable better connectivity for mobile phone users,” the representative added.
Kshatriya did not respond to calls and text messages by HT.
Civic officials said there were 4,279 government buildings in the city, excluding those owned by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and new government properties that are to be assessed for tax collection.
Of these, around 3,000 buildings can be used to set up these sites, officials said.
Anti-radiation activist, Jitendra Gupta, welcomed the move. “This is a positive step. Government offices are not occupied for 24 hours. But safety norms must be followed if the buildings are surrounded by residential buildings,” he said. Gupta added that installation of mobile tower antennae on government buildings must also translate to removal of antennae from residential ones, where residents oppose them.