Rajesh Srivastava, Regional Director, Coslight India

The Indian telecom industry has witnessed multiple paradigm shifts over the past decade. The emergence of joint ventures seeking 2G licences in 2008 was followed by the introduction of 3G and the entry of more players in the early half of this decade. The introduction of 4G services in late 2015 added to the existing market competition, leading to a disruption in the telecom market,  which was seeing signs of correction, with the exit of some smaller players. The new environment challenged the existence of established players and spurred mergers, acquisitions and consolidation. The price war thus unleashed led to the launch of almost free voice and data and plans. In such a challenging environment, the burden of balancing cost vs revenue has forced telecom operators to adopt rapid cost-cutting measures.

The changing dynamics of the telecom industry have not only impacted telecom operators, but tower infrastructure provi­­ders as well. Tower infrastructure forms the backbone of the cellular network and en­tails a huge opex for operators. The industry has seen cost rationalisation and cost cut­­ting measures like never before. The cri­­tical elements of a tower site’s autonomy such as battery banks and diesel generators (DGs) are being looked at as areas for cost reduction. The corrective actions include the use of renewable energy given the poor grid conditions in most parts of the country.

The rising cost of fuel and the need to be environmentally responsible are proving to be key challenges for the industry. In 2009, the telecom industry briefly overtook Indian Railways as the country’s largest consumer of diesel, with an estimated consumption of more than 2 billion litres a year. Diesel consumption issues, such as pilferage and adverse environmental impact, are the key concerns for towercos.

Typically, a standard VRLA battery is being used as a standby source of power with low cyclic life, maintenance requirement and cost. While standby batteries provide excellent return on initial investment (capex), their operational life gets exhausted quickly in most off-grid situations that require high-cycle performance. Since most off-grid applications require a larger reserve than traditional installations, they need more number of batteries. In this scenario, opex emerges as an important consideration while evaluating battery deployments. The primary factors driving the total cost of ownership are battery life, autonomy, performance and efficiency.

Coslight India, one of the first lithium-ion battery assemblers in India and a market leader in providing VRLA battery solutions to some of the top telcos and towercos in the country, has responded to the challenges being faced by telecom infrastructure companies. It has come up with an in­no­­vative hybrid solution, Telecom Ener­­gy Storage Unit (TESU), which has the capability to convert DG-backed sites into energy-efficient and DG-free/low-usage sites. Its key benefits include high autonomy, fast charging, long backup, reduced op­­ex cost, remote monitoring, minimum DG usage and reduction in the carbon foot­­print.

TESU is designed to utilise the cyclic capability of battery banks. In case of intermittent and cyclic operation, part energy is delivered by the lithium-ion battery bank and part by the VRLA battery bank in a controlled and automated switch over set-up.  This provides an optimum and efficient usage of the banks to fulfil the energy re­­qu­irements. The overall life ex­­pec­tancy of the system also significantly increases.

TESU is a combination of the lead acid and lithium-ion battery banks. Thus, it provides a viable capex and opex solution, whi­ch can reduce DG run hours or, in some cases, eliminate the usage of DG, like in intermittent grid outage as well as long outage scenarios. This solution is targeted at a wide load band, which can be further expanded by adding scalable battery bank. An example of TESU for a 20 kWh load scenario is mentioned in the box.

Coslight India and other players in the battery domain are focused in their R&D pr­a­ctices to realise the opp­or­­tunities in the telecom infrastructure industry.