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Tuesday, July 14, 2020 06:07:29 PM
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Infrastructure Sharing Telcos Can Benefit From Green Energy

By Engr. Quazi Shelley Rahman
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Infrastructure sharing is most important demand of the hour, because it refers to the combined utilization of assets to protect the environment and allow better and competent service for the subscribers. Actually, sharing of telecommunication infrastructure reduce the cost of network deployment, barrier to market entry, rural-urban digital divide and enhance competition between operators, broadband penetration, service innovation, investment for new technologies. It also ensures optimal use of scare resources and creates new source of revenue.
Tangible and intangible infrastructure assets subsist in telecommunication networks. Active infrastructure assets (such as: Spectrum, Switches, Antennas, Transceivers, microwave etc.) and passive infrastructure assets (such as: Steel tower, BTS shelter, Power supply, Generators, Batteries, Air conditioners, Fire extinguishers etc.) both are tangible assets. Both assets are being used sharing basis in the telecommunication industry throughout the world. Active infrastructures haring exists in some countries (Such as: Australia, Hong-Kong and Papua New Guinea etc.) and Passive infrastructure sharing exists in some countries (Such as: Pakistan, India, Indonesia, New-Zealand, Thailand, China etc.). But some countries are practicing both types of infrastructure sharing, such as: USA, UK, Malaysia, Sweden etc. Meanwhile, intangible assets are those that do not exist physically but are essential to provide telecommunication service, for example: licenses granted for the right of way to build a telecommunication infrastructure. In Bangladesh only passive sharing is allowed in telecommunication sector yet.
Tower sharing is mostly used infrastructure sharing model around the world. Tower sharing has been the feature in America and Europe over the past decades. Furthermore, India has also invested huge amount of money and China has asserted its value proposition for tower sharing business of telecommunications even in emerging markets. Telecom infrastructure makes up a substantial proportion of operators' capital cost (up to 60%) and, in emerging markets most of their operating cost. Tower divestment also leaves tower cos to manage the 'grass and steel' side of the business whilst operators focus on their core business of technology and customer service. This model is well established and vigorously encouraged by governments in many jurisdictions across the world. There is already an established towers market in North America and India, and the model is receiving increasing attention in emerging markets such as Africa, Central and Latin America and Asia (particularly in Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia). Currently four types of tower sharing exist in telecommunication industry, they are: Inter-operator tower sharing, exist in Indonesia, Qatar, Tanzania and Bangladesh; Telco owned tower company, exist in India and Bangladesh; Join-venture independent tower company, exist in India and Africa; Third party tower company exist in Indonesia, India  and Africa. Bangladesh has awarded third party tower company license.
In the context of passive Infrastructure sharing operators must consider substances, such as: load bearing capacity of towers, azimuth angle of different service providers, tilt of the antenna, height of the antenna, Space within sites, and adverse effects on Quality of Service (QoS) before executing the agreement. In the context of RAN sharing, it may have an adverse effect on quality of service (QoS) levels due to reduction of signal strength when antennas are combined. Core network sharing poses technical limitations with regards to the technology platform of the operator. Traditionally 2G networks have been specified and designed on a circuit switched architecture. But 3G networks is IP based networks that should be able to benefit most from core network sharing as they already employ the standards and architectural components required for sharing.
Different countries around the world including Bangladesh faced different sorts of problem for operating and maintaining their infrastructures include inadequate power supply, high costs of backup power, theft of diesel, and low availability and accessibility of alternative power solutions. For this reason operational expenditures are increasing day by day. It is high time to think on telecom infrastructure policy and on approach towards green telecommunications. To encourage green telecommunications it is very important for telecom companies to use renewable source (A source of energy that is not depleted by use, such as water, wind, solar power, bio fuels etc.) of energy for powering their towers. Most recently one of the telecom infrastructure providers in Bangladesh has established wind power based tower test and trail basis. Meanwhile, this company also established camouflage tower for beautification of Dhaka city and light weight roof mount Carbon fiber tower. A mobile network approximately consumes 61 billion KWH of energy per year with an average site responsible for 10 tons of carbon emissions per year.  
Infrastructure sharing prefers commercial contemplation rather than regulatory mandates to adopt variety of infrastructure models. Commercial dimension is meaningful if it supports the operator's competitive advances. Telecommunication operators can achieve desire economic of scale and scope by reducing Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) and Operational Expenditure (OPEX) through sharing infrastructure. It has strategic importance for market agents trying to minimize cost and regulators aiming to maximize social welfare. Regulatory intervention required to encourage or prevent sharing that must be analysis case by case basis. A regulator may decide to provide approval for sharing, actively encourage sharing or mandate access. In general, it appears that regulator tends to rely on operators to engage in commercial negotiations to set a price for infrastructure sharing. In the few cases, regulators have chosen to regulate the price on infrastructure sharing. In India all licensees must announce of their web site regarding the existing and future infrastructure installation available for sharing and a time limit of 30 days for negotiation of sharing, otherwise Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) act as an arbitrator. In China, Operator can settle the disputes arising from sharing or by commissioning third party agency; otherwise they may apply to Provincial co-ordination Agency (PCA), if PCA fail then submit this dispute to the Leading Group. In Sweden, if operator cannot reach a voluntary agreement for sharing, it may request the regulator to impose an obligation. In Australia commercial negotiation is the preferred route and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) acting as an arbitrator of last resort. In US, Federal Communication Commission (FCC) published maximum rate guidelines in 1998 to be used for settling rate dispute between infrastructure owner and tenants. In Bangladesh, commercial negotiation considering as preferred route and a specific four (04) week time line for negotiation between infrastructure provider and seeker, otherwise regulator will settle this dispute within one (01) week.
In the context of Bangladesh, it is highly recommended that concern authorities should take steps to fix the price of infrastructure sharing through cost modeling by considering all incremental cost, and published order to all licensees regarding infrastructure installation available for sharing to post their website. They can either published maximum rate guideline or price cap for the rate of infrastructure sharing to foster penetration of telecommunication services and encourage Green Telecommunication. Concern authority should take proper action for producing more renewable energy source as early as possible to meet the upcoming demand of telecommunication services.

(Quazi Shelley Rahman is Chief Operating Officer, Bell Communication and Head of UCEP Hafiz Muzumder Sylhet Technical School)

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