As per Digital Infrastructure Providers Association (DIPA), at present around 33 per cent of telecom towers are connected on fibre in India which needs to be enhanced to at least at least 70 per cent of the towers to be fiberised to serve 5G requirements. National Broadband Mission, which was launched in December 2019, envisages 70 per cent fiberisation within 5 years’ time, that is by 2024.

In order to make 5G a success story in India, it is essential to invest on network densification heavily through provisioning of fibre, small cells and mobile towers. For faster rollout of 5G in the country, sharing of fibre should be mandatory which will save the operational costs of the telecom operators as well.

According to T.R.Dua, director-general, DIPA, “Fiberisation would play an essential role in getting India ready for 5G. While the current capacity per tower site is about 200 mbps for 2G/3G/4G services, for 5G service, the capacity needed for each site will increase to 1-5 Gbps, which will require fiberised backhaul. At present, the fibre connectivity to the telecom tower stands at 31 per cent on pan India basis. The National Broadband mission has envisaged the fibre to the tower per cent to grow to 70 per cent by 2024 in order to support 5G.”

Currently, out of 2,307,068 base transceiver station (BTS), only 793,551 BTS are connected to fibre accounting to total 34.4 per cent in the country. Some of the big name states like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat are merely 30 per cent fibre connected, way far behind the set target of 70 per cent and few states like Himachal Pradesh are not even 30 per cent fibre connected presently.

As per EY report, in 2019, the capital expenditure (capex) requirement would be around Rs 450 billion to reach 70 per cent tower fiberisation by 2024.

Roll-out of new technologies like 5G requires mushrooming of small cells and fiberisation of the networks which will entail substantial amounts of fresh investments across the country could be facilitated through enhancement of scope of IP-1 enabling active infrastructure sharing which can be an effective mechanism to attract the much needs funds and enable faster rollout of 5G network.