Call drops: South civic body may slash licence fee for cell towers

MCDs, in 2010, increased their licence fee from Rs 1 lakh for a period of 20 years to Rs 1 lakh per year.

Written by Naveed Iqbal | New Delhi | Updated: September 9, 2015 9:44:24 am

With growing complaints of call drops from across the city, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) is mulling bringing down its licence fee for setting up cell towers, which is at the root of the issue.

Standing Committee chairman Radhey Shyam Sharma on Tuesday proposed to the Standing Committee that the corporation should reduce its licence fee, essentially an application fee, for setting up cell towers in the city, which has been the bone of contention between mobile network operators and the civic bodies.

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The MCDs, in 2010, increased their licence fee from Rs 1 lakh for a period of 20 years to Rs 1 lakh per year (to be paid at the rate of Rs 5 lakh for five years) for setting up cell towers in their jurisdiction.

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The cellular operators, under the banner of the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI), petitioned the Delhi High Court in April 2011, challenging not only the increase in fee but also that the imposition of any fee or other conditions to the installation of towers is “beyond the purview of the MCD”.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Director General, COAI, Rajan S Mathews said, “The court struck down the hike in fee and directed the MCDs to provide a cost-oriented fee to cover their administrative costs. They can charge us an application fee. Licensing isn’t even their purview.”

However, in a meeting between mobile operators and corporation officials held approximately a month back, no settlement could be reached as the two parties did not agree to each other’s terms.

The standing committee chairman also proposed that municipal buildings be made available to the cellular operator so that more towers could be erected and the issue of call drops be dealt with while bringing in more revenue for the corporation.

This, Mathews said, was acceptable to the cellular operators since shutting down cellular towers by the MCD was leading to call drops and poor voice quality on several networks. “In the last six months, call drops have increased from 2 per cent to 25 per cent in the city. If they come back to us with a reasonable figure, we will be happy to pay it.”

On Tuesday, officials of the corporation reported having “removed” 49 cell towers in the last two months and sealing another 115. In July 2015, the standing committee of the South corporation had sought the ‘dismantling’ of mobile towers which have been installed illegally in South Delhi since 2010.

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