Telecom sector is essential to all other sectors of an economy. Currently, India is the world’s second-biggest telecom market and largest consumer of data. Its telecom sector provides access to voice and data services at the lowest prices to 1.16 billion people. But, it is also true that the sector has experienced exceptional growth at the price of the environment due to its heavy reliance on diesel to fuel towers.
One of the primary growth factors being the integration of telecom technology with electrical grids makes the telecom sector’s robust solution capable of pushing power growth in India. This can be done by incentivising both green and smart power alternatives.
Robust telecommunication solutions
The emergence of energy-saving systems has made telecom service providers and equipment manufacturers use their skill set to improve the way power is transmitted, gather real-time information from consumers and grids, and support utilities in running more effectively and economically. There are many new prospects emerging for tower companies, toward new business models based on fibre, small cells, data centres etc. Fibre’s anticipated expansion of upto 2.8 million cable kilometres by 2023 makes it a potential opportunity. Another intriguing prospect is the expansion of small cells. The tower companies will push power growth in India in the following ways:
- Owing to their extensive experience in handling energy assets, tower companies can monetise on existing assets and provide power and power management as a service. They can provide primary and backup power as well.
- Robust telecom solutions such as location-based technologies will help to manage mobility, optimise the workforce and increase connectivity with remote pipeline workers.
- Tower companies are implementing effective storage solutions like Li-ion batteries, advanced VRLA batteries, flow batteries, and thermal energy-based solutions and scaling up the solar installations across the network, to reduce the use of diesel at sites with irregular and unpredictable power supplies.
- Measuring consumption in greater detail using smart metres will allow utilities to use data for monitoring and billing purposes and also provide consumers an incentive to monitor their energy usage periodically. This data is transmitted over the current telecom network, which eliminates the need to create a communication network from the ground up and lowers the initial cost.
- Machine-to-machine platforms-based mobile tracking and positioning solutions like cell ID, GPS and radio beacon will assist utilities in decreasing theft, better asset management and pilferage. Consequently, reducing downtime and maximising asset use.
- Modernising transmission and distribution grids into smart grids will fulfil modern energy needs. A smart grid establishes a safe, efficient, and reliable energy system by adopting dependable end-to-end communication technologies. Sensors on the installed grids convey information about issues, grid performance statistics, status updates, etc. It will help to optimise costs, reduce outages and prepare power suppliers for future disruption and storage issues. Utility companies may enhance customer relationships and operational efficiency while improving power delivery, power quality, and operational efficiency using a smart grid. All of it will be achieved with the help of infrastructure provided by telecom companies and broadband capabilities. A smart grid also makes automated Load Balancing and other forms of enhanced electricity delivery possible.
Also, since the telecom sector would require about 26 billion units of electricity, it will be crucial to switch to greener power consumption techniques. As a result, telecom and tower companies are pushing green power growth through various tactics like:
- Adopting several demand management-related steps to lower energy use. Measures to reduce diesel use include sharing passive infrastructure, replacing outdated BTS with newer, more energy-efficient BTS, using outdoor BTS with improved ambient air circulation easing heat dissipation, designing shelters with free cooling units and green shelters, use of TRXs, etc.
- Reducing the need for fuel and increasing the efficiency of backup power by utilising DC diesel generators and appropriately sizing DG sets.
- Utilising renewable energy sources such as solar photovoltaic, wind power, fuel cells, and biofuels. Hybrid DG systems using solar and wind power are also in use. Solar radiation and wind are, most of the times, inconsistent, so they are often combined with other power sources such as utility grid and DG to ensure the continuous supply of power.
The widespread wireless network in India is unparalleled in terms of its reach and influence with a subscriber base of 1178.41 million as of 2021, having per subscriber usage of approximately 11gb wireless data per month as of 2020. Therefore, it must always be completely functional because any unplanned power outage to these networks could result in loss of data, sales, and production hours. Indian tower companies are in a good position to increase their infrastructure portfolio as government plans to develop several smart city projects where IoT will have a crucial role to play. Thus, there is a wide scope for the sector to support the digital imperative and incentivise power growth in India.