Radiation level from telecom towers down from September 1
With new guidelines coming into force from September 1, 2012 radiation emission
from telecom towers will come down to 1/10th of the present level, a
development that will address public health concerns. Also, the handsets
to be rolled out from domestic manufacturing units or to be imported will
have reduced absorption capacity, as per the new guidelines.
The minimum distance of a tower (with two antenna) will be 35 meter from
a residential building. There are over seven lakh towers for mobile phones throughout the country of which 95% of them are already compliant
with the new emission norms. Non-compliance of these standards will result in a penalty of Rs. 5 lakh
per tower, telecom minister Kapil Sibal said.
"Public health comes first. Technology must be embraced but it ultimately must be subject to public health," he said.
On mobile handsets, the specific absorption rate (SAR) value will now be
1.6 watts/kg averaged over one gram of human tissue. Previously, the SAR
value for handsets was 2 watts/kg measured over 10 grams of human tissue. However, one-year time has been given for tuning the handsets in stock
with companies. "Any new handset that is manufactured must comply with this norm," the minister said.
Mobile users have also been advised to use headset (bluetooth, wired) to
keep mobile away from their body. They should also limit the length of calls and make more use text messaging.
The SAR value information will be displayed on the handsets like IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number, which is used for the
recognition of the model.The Telegraph Act will be amended for ensuring compliance of new SAR
values, Sibal added.The government will set up a testing lab for random checking of SAR
values of mobile handsets, Sibal said.
Radiation emanating from mobile towers in India
The World Health Organisation (WHO), Government of India and Indian telecom operators will
meet shortly over worries of clear links between many serious ailments
and strong radiation emanating from mobile towers, much beyond internationally accepted limits.
A top industry official confirmed the plan for such a meeting aimed at fixing the responsibility on the service providers of strictly adhering
to internationally accepted limits of mobile tower radiation. Besides officials of WHO and telecom operators, officials from both
telecom and health ministries, are expected to participate in the meeting.
Nationwide testing of mobile towers
Union Minister of State for Communications and Technology Sachin Pilot said
on October 30, 2010 that The Department of Telecommunications will begin a nationwide
testing of mobile towers next month to check electromagnetic frequency
radiation they emit. “Starting November 16, the Telecom Engineering and Resource Monitoring
(TERM) Cells of the DoT will begin nationwide random testing of mobile
towers. and the companies found emitting more than the approved levels of radiation will be fined Rs. 5 lakh per tower,” Mr. Pilot said.
The mobile tower radiation issue in India was governed by the guidelines
drawn from the recommendations of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, he said. All the service providers
were asked to get their base trans-receiver station (BTS) self-certified
for radiation norms. The self-certification details were to be submitted to the respective TERM cells of the DoT by November 15, 2010. “Now the
progress in this regard and compliance levels would be monitored centrally… and after November 15, 2010, anyone found violating the norms
will be severely penalised,” Mr. Pilot said. He said the efforts made by telecom companies to improve tele-density
was commendable, but health-related issues that might arise from the operation of mobile phone towers could not be ignored.
Mobile phone towers to be powered by solar energy
The government will make it mandatory for mobile phone towers
to be powered by solar energy, hoping to cut pollution and tamp down a key driver of diesel consumption in the country. But this would raise
construction costs by up to 50% for cellphone operators such as Bharti, Vodafone and Reliance Communications
“We are working on a new scheme that will support adoption of greener practices by telecos while rolling out their services for customers,”
secretary with the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE), Deepak Gupta said. Over 200 crore litres of diesel are used every year
by up to 3,50,000 cell towers across the country, and their numbers are increasing by the day.
The country currently has about 3,50,000 cell towers.
The solar power initiative for cell towers will
help cut the use of noisy, smoke-spewing diesel gensets in tower operations and prevent flow
of government subsidy on diesel for unintended activities.“A test project on adoption of solar power panels is being carried out
in 600 towers. This will be completed by second half of the next year. Based on the inputs we get from it, the initiative will be rolled out
nationally and a new funding scheme may be worked out,” he said.
The new scheme is being spearheaded under
the recently launched Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) that aims to increase
solar power capacity in the country by 20,000 mw by 2022. The MNRE has already started discussing the proposal with various
stakeholders and may seek Cabinet approval for the scheme. The ministry wants to initially ask only the new cell towers to use solar power, but
all existing towers would also be covered under the scheme in phases.
The country currently has about 3,50,000 cell towers. Each tower costs about Rs 40
lakh, and the additional cost of installing a 10-kw solar
power panel would be Rs 16 lakh, officials say. “The government’s proposed move may almost double the cost of laying towers. This could
significantly impact the margins for companies already under pressure due to rising spectrum costs,” said an official of a major private
sector telecom company, who did not want to be identified.
While the proposed government scheme will limit direct capital support
to telecom companies to a basic minimum for laying solar power panels, it may offer soft loans to companies under refinancing schemes of Indian
Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA). “Diesel-based electricity is both expensive — costs as high as Rs 15 per unit
and polluting. It is in this situation the solar imperative is both urgent and feasible,”said another government official involved in
JNNSM. “Companies could recover their full investment in a span of 10 years,” he added.
DoT pitches subsidies for eco-friendly operators
The department of telecommunications (DoT) has decided to reward operators using renewable energy to power wireless transmission towers.
Mobile telephony firms burn 2 billion litres of diesel every year to operate 425,000 telecom towers across the country, DoT officials estimate.
“More than 1.25 lakh (125,000) of these towers are in rural areas, where power is a major problem. It is either not available so the operator has
to ensure that a steady supply of diesel is provided, or the power supply is erratic, which means that for long periods of time, the
network is down,” a DoT official said.
DoT has decided to provide multiple subsidies and incentives to
encourage use of renewable energy. One such includes a 30% subsidy from the ministry of new and renewable
energy on the total cost of making 200 towers eco-friendly in a certain area.
The subsidy would be extended for 250 towers in areas affected by Maoist violence.
A solar panel needed to power a tower costs around Rs.28 lakh.
DoT also intends to soon help erect telecom towers in villages not covered by a wireless network, using money from the Universal Service
Obligation fund—set up by the government to underwrite spread of telephony to remote rural areas. These towers would use renewable energy.
TRAI introducing a carbon credit policy
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), too, is looking at
reducing the environmental impact of India’s telecommunications sector by introducing a carbon credit policy, the details of which are being
worked out. “We are hopeful that a move of this kind will bring a reduction of around 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and an estimated savings of
$1.4 billion (Rs.6,260 crore) in operating expenses for telecom tower companies,” said the first DoT official cited above.
Many telecom tower firms, including *Indus Towers Ltd*, *GTL Infrastructure Ltd* and *Bharti Infratel Ltd*, have begun moving to
eco-friendly fuels. Till 2007, Bharti Airtel Ltd, India’s largest telecom firm by subscribers, was also the second largest buyer of diesel in the country
after the Indian Railways. Many operators and tower firms are waiting for the government to
disburse a 50% subsidy on solar panels, announced in the national budget.
Alternative source of energy
A number of operators are also experimenting with alternative source of energy such as wind power and
Idea Cellular Ltd has a project in Maharashtra’s Latur district, where
28 telecom towers are running on biofuel. Bharti Airtel has undertaken trials for solar power and bio-diesel and
has been rolling out pilot projects in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where
power supply is thin and diesel costs high.
TransAct will distribute Altergy's hydrogen fuel cell
TransAct Energy on November 4, 2010 announced that it has entered into a collaboration
agreement with Altergy Systems of California whereby TransAct will distribute Altergy's hydrogen fuel cell back up power systems
designed for the telecommunication industry, in India. The total distribution
license is valued at $10 Million USD with the provision to offset the same with a bona fide order for ten thousand Altergy Systems.
India currently has in excess of 350,000 cell phone towers in operation, as
reported by PV Magazine, each using between 3 and 5 kilowatts of power. Diesel generators typically provide this power, consuming over 2 billion
liters of diesel fuel and spewing out over 5 Million tons of CO2 into the environment annually. The Indian government is establishing new laws
to make it mandatory to replace diesel power with clean power and is currently in tests utilizing a solar power system. TransAct and Altergy
believe fuel cells are ideal for this application. TransAct will also have the option to manufacture its own hydrogen fuel
cell generators in India using the Altergy technology under a separate license agreement. "We set out to secure sustainable power technologies
that we can integrate into complete solutions," says Rod Bartlett CEO and President of TransAct Energy Corp. "We believe that Altergy's mass
producible fuel cells are the perfect solution for the Indian market.
The Altergy technology has the potential to become a household name in
India when it is ready to be placed in every home, for now we will tackle the Telco industry and other essential services that require
reliable back up and uninterrupted power supplies."
Telecom tower operators in India
Telecom tower operators have emerged in India over the past few years. The largest is Indus Towers, a JV between Bharti
Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea Cellular, with over one lakh towers. Next is GTL Infrastructure, with about 32,500 towers, which may rise to
85,000 after its merger with Reliance Communications' tower arm Reliance Infratel recently..
Mobile towers on city rooftops
With the growing number of network service providers, the demand for more space
for installing towers grew. And many of those who came forward to meet this demand violated norms. Nearly 80% of such towers in every Indian city and
its fringes are situated in congested areas. Building owners, too, do not care to think twice about letting out their rooftops for installing
these towers. The revenue is handsome according to the location of the building.
The past few years have seen many towers coming up, violating environment ministry guidelines. Citizens need to wake up to this
violation because of the health hazards due to these towers.
TRAI wants mobile towers to go clean
A new set of recommendations from Traion April 17, 2011 says that in the next five years,
half of the telecom towers in rural areas and one third in the urban
areas must be powered by hybrid sources. By 2020, hybrid sources must
power all rural towers and half of the urban towers. Hybrid power means
running towers with renewable energy sources (mainly solar) and grid power from power plants.
As of now, telecom towers are primarily powered by diesel generators,
raising environmental concerns. The telecom sector accounts for about
one per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in India. Further, Trai said that by 2015, all mobile phones should be free of
brominates and chlorinated compounds and antimony trioxide in accordance
with the e-waste (management and handling) Rules 2010, proposed by the
ministry of environment and forests to be followed by all telecom manufacturers, as and when notified. The regulator also wants mobile
phone makers to ensure proper arrangements for collection of e-waste – mobile phones, batteries, chargers etc.