The Ministry of Telecom has raised concerns over a provision in the recently notified unified building bylaws for Delhi by the Delhi Development Authority. The bylaws restrict installation of communication towers in residential areas in the capital. The ministry says that the measure will severely hinder the efforts to fix the “call drops” issue. The telecom department wrote to the urban development ministry which governs the Delhi Development Authority. The ministry wrote: “The notification imposes restrictions on installation of mobile towers thereby severely affecting proliferation of mobile services and impacting the quality of these services.”
The telecom department has expressed concern that the new bylaws notified by the DDA will hit the efforts of the mobile service providers who are working to address the “call drop” problem by upgrading their equipment and installing new towers. Telecom Secretary J.S. Deepak sent an official communiqué to his counterpart in the Union Ministry of Urban Development Rajiv Gauba, seeking his urgent attention in the matter. He argued that telecom is one of the core infrastructure sectors and it is essential for the country’s rapid growth and modernisation. He said that the telecom towers are critical infrastructure that provides mobile connectivity to people in residential areas. Even though the DDA notification intends to restrict proliferation of private signages in residential area, it says that “No signage/ communication tower and advertisement is to be provided in residential area”. This has led to increased discomfort and unrest in the telecom ministry which feels that there is an urgent need to relook and review the provision. Officials in the telecom ministry said that though there was a discussion between the ministries on restricting mobile tower presence, there is some dissatisfaction remaining with the UD ministry. “We were on the same page. Cell phone towers should be installed at commercial and public places, not in residential areas,” an official said. Officials said that the telecom ministry will pursue modification in the bylaws with the UD ministry. In order to clear its position in the matter, the telecom ministry has said that mobile towers are used to support telegraph. Also, it has said that the power to make rules for the conduct of telegraph is conferred on the Central government under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1886. It said that under the business rules of the Central government, telegraph is a subject matter of the department of telecommunication.The DoT has in the recent past acquired clearance for 125 sites for installation of telecom towers in Delhi. This notification has come as a setback to them.