The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is considering using street furniture to densely deploy next generation 5G telecom infrastructure to overcome right-of-way (RoW) challenges following a proposal from a state electricity board.

To this end, the DoT has formed a committee to review the availability of street furniture particularly the strength of electricity poles and air speed so as to see if they are capable of being leveraged for seamless 5G network. The committee is reviewing the quantum of state-owned infrastructure for making it available for 5G small cells deployment.

Commenting on the initiative, Lt. Gen. Dr. SP Kochhar, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), said, “A key driver of effective 5G deployment is the deployment of small cells, which are a critical part of upgrading and expanding 4G networks. In line with this, the committee led by Sr. DDG, Kerala LSA, and members from State Electricity Department including COAI, TSPs and OEMs provided a concrete proposal for the use of electric pole for 5G small cell deployment. With regard to the deployment of small cells over poles, we are in close contact with the DoT and coordinating with OEMs to provide inputs on technical specifications, aesthetics, power requirements, backhaul requirements, etc. Additionally, we are seeking out support that can help install small cell infrastructure for TSPs and working with them for plans and requirements. To combat the challenges of laying aerial OFC, which serves as the backbone for small cell towers, it is important to enable initiatives for sharing existing infrastructure. Therefore, we completely support the idea of deploying 5G small cells on electric poles and have provided the international best practices to the committee.”

Lately, the Kerala State Electricity Board (KESB) also submitted a proposal to the DoT to utilse existing statewide electric poles.

According to Digital Infrastructure Providers Association (DIPA), the industry needs higher quantum of antennas and small cells that may fall within a range between 100 to 200 metres depending upon the nature of allocated frequency band. The main issue industry faces with deployment of small cells is mainly on the operational side such as the site acquisition, RoW, rentals and the energy cost and availability.

Reportedly, during the meetings held with KSEB and DoT, DIPA also sought the support from Kerala government for enabling policy provisions for deploying aerial optic-fibre cable (OFC), availability of online portal with mapping of entire KSEB network and speedy RoW approvals for network installations at minimal costs.