Street furniture vital in 5G: TRAI Chairman

Street furniture vital in 5G: TRAI Chairman

"The present system is not conducive at all. Even though DoT has come out with RoW (right of way) rules, we need to change this. In 5G, street furniture is going to be important," said Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Chairman PD Vaghela

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Though the launch of 5G in India is still some quarters away, the operators and government have started putting their minds together to make it work. At a recent Business Today panel discussion, TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) chairman P.D. Vaghela says that the telecom operators are likely to face challenges as they deploy 5G infrastructure when it will be rolled out in the country.

"The present system is not conducive at all. Even though DoT has come out with RoW (right of way) rules, we need to change this. In 5G, street furniture is going to be important," Vaghela says.

He said that all the permissions for putting telecom infrastructure need to be given online. "RWAs (resident welfare associations) should be giving permissions online. Why the TSPs (telecom service providers) are required to go to (RWA) president and request. We need to have building codes. In buildings, if there are architectures and engineers for structure and design, why don't we have telecom engineers who will advise on putting ducts and facilities? It should be a law applicable to everyone. Then, we need to go for index of cities, towns, and states. We need to rank them on how telecom friendly they are. We need to immediately address the street furniture (issue)," says Vaghela.

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For the uninitiated, street furniture is a broad term for micro-level telecom infrastructure in the form of small cells, Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), backhaul that are used to supplement the macro-level telecom towers. This wireless infrastructure expands the network coverage by going closer to the consumers.

A white paper by US-based WIA (Wireless Infrastructure Association) describes street furniture as objects in public spaces that house small-cell units in boxes, and are considered visually commonplace and acceptable to the public. "Street furniture must have a power source for the wireless equipment to function. Common examples of street furniture outfitted for small-cell networks include billboards, lamp posts, lit signage, phone booths, mailboxes, park benches, public art, utility poles, athletic field light poles, traffic signals and other structures," the white paper says.

Vaghela says that there is huge misunderstanding about 5G and health. "People are not ready for their buildings to be used for street furniture. We need to put small towers on every building. Power is another thing. It's not just about taking permissions but (getting) the required amount of power. In many cases, telcos will be required to put generator sets, and for that, many state electricity law permissions have to be required," he says adding that TRAI wants to prepare a model city that will handle the existing structures for taking 5G and fixed lines. This model city will develop protocols which would likely be part of state and central laws.

Telcos like Reliance Jio say that the classical 2G/3G/4G way of putting telecom infrastructure will move to hyper-distributed manner because of the low-latency and high bandwidth requirements. In order to enable street furniture, India needs power, and that is going to be the biggest challenge that the country will face in 5G deployment.

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