By Jesus Milton Rousseau S.
The Indian telecommunications industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, and India is projected to become the second largest telecom market globally. According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the number of telecom subscribers in the country increased to 562.21 million in December 2009, an increase of 3.5 per cent from 543.20 million in November 2009. With this, the overall teledensity (telephones per 100 people) has touched 47.89. The telecom industry notched up $8.56 billion in revenues during the quarter that ended December 31, 2009, helped by a recovery in earnings from both mobile and landline services.
According to Business Monitor International, India is currently adding 8-10 million mobile subscribers every month. It is estimated that by mid 2012, around half the country’s population will own mobile phones. This would translate into 612 million mobile subscribers, accounting for a teledensity of around 51 per cent by 2012. As per the telecom policy 1999, while the tele density in rural areas of the country has exceeded the target of 4 per cent by 2010, it is still far below the national average, that is 16.54 per cent.
Future growth trends
The growth in the domestic telecom industry was largely concentrated in the metros and tier I cities in the past decade, with coverage reaching around 90 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively. But now this growth is expected to be led by tier II and III cities. However, coverage in tier II and III cities is still low at 15 to 25 per cent. Moreover, within these cities the growth has largely been concentrated in urban areas while penetration in the rural areas remains lower. Thus, future growth is likely to come largely from tier II and III cities and rural areas. Keeping this in view, players like Bharti Airtel Ltd, Reliance Communications Ltd and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) are largely focusing on increasing their geographical coverage in technological evolution tier II and III cities.
Today, the telecom sector has evolved in terms of technology (GSM, CDMA, 3G, Wimax, etc) and many specialised players like MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) and pure play telecom infrastructure players like Quippo have ventured into this space. The growth opportunities have also brought about fierce competition, with nearly 10 operators per city, and increasingly aware customers. While expectations on quality of service (QoS) has increased, average revenue per user (ARPU) has decreased—putting immense pressure on the traditional method of operating.
One of the recent events was the launch of pure play infrastructure players in the telecom industry. According to ICRA Ltd (formerly Investment Information and Credit Rating Agency of India Ltd), passive infrastructure sharing (tower-sharing) is gaining significance. Passive infrastructure being one of the most important components of a mobile network, the same had been a critical area of operations for telecom companies in the past. However, with increasing competition posing an urgent need for telecom companies to expand their coverage and sharpen their focus on core operations so that they can sustain and improve their market position, passive infrastructure has assumed the status of an independent industry during the past few years.
Overall, sharing of infrastructure, passive as well as active, is beneficial for all parties involved as it brings along significant operational as well as financial savings, thus, enabling the companies to minimise duplication of efforts and costs and improve profitability.
Quality services to provide competitive edge
India has one of the highest MoUs in the world, which increases the number of base tower stations (BTS) required to handle the same subscriber base. Thus, while on an average a GSM BTS can handle around 1,100 subscribers, in the case of high usage areas, the figure can be as low as 600 to 700 subscribers, which means a larger number of cell sites would be required for the same area. Moreover, the country has the problem of spectrum scarcity, which increases the requirement of towers to maintain a reasonable level of service quality.
In the past, domestic telecom operators competed largely on the pricing plank. However, as mobile tariffs in India are currently one of the lowest in the world, the scope for further tariff reduction is low. Given this fact, quality of service (QoS) would become the prime distinguishing factor among the competing companies in near future. Moreover, a rapidly increasing subscriber base and spectrum crunch would further add to the problem of telecom operators in maintaining the minimum level of QoS. Besides, with the likely introduction of mobile number portability, QoS will become more important as customers will then have a broader range of options available with limited switching costs. Thus, to retain existing subscribers by preventing subscriber churn, operators will require additional infrastructure in their existing areas of operation to be able to offer better QoS. Finally, the enhancement of profitability, that is tower sharing, helps operators lower their operating costs and capital expenditure and thereby earn better margins and higher return on capital employed (RoCE); the overall impact on profit and loss is also positive. Analysis suggests that there would be net annual cost savings for mobile operators if they opt to lease towers from a tower company rather than own them.
Significance of power backup for telecom towers
Hence, in telecom market, towers are the most important infrastructure to provide services to customers. For growth to continue, telecom operators need to continue to add infrastructure through the underserved areas of the country. These areas are often plagued by continuous powercuts and operate in terrains that are both not easily accessible as well as being not very conducive in terms of climatic conditions for managing technologically advanced equipments. Hence, these conditions demand an effective and efficient power backup to deliver the quality of service that is demanded by customers in India. The power backup solutions, therefore, need to be able to operate in a wide range of conditions ranging from extreme heat to humidity, without affecting the life of battery. Given the remote location of a lot of sites, the solution should have high levels of reliability and availability. The battery systems should also be able to operate in a variety of conditions which allow for both deep discharge as well as float conditions. The solution needs to be designed to enable easy storage and have low levels of maintenance. And finally, given the low revenue realisation it is also important for the batteries to have a long life, thereby, lowering the replacement costs.
Greenvision Technologies’ Relicell GFM series
Battery manufacturers have, therefore, launched products specifically for the telecom market. Greenvision Technologies’ Relicell GFM series of valve regulated lead acid (VRLA) batteries are specially designed to meet the fast growing energy storage requirements of the telecommunication, UPS and other high capacity DC systems. This category is designed using latest AGM VRLA technology and produced in a state-of-the-art plant using the purest materials. It’s characteristics like long float and cyclic life span, high specific energy, low self discharge, leak proof and anti-corrosion properties and tolerance to wide temperature ranges, makes it the ideal choice for the telecom sector applications. The product features include float life of 15 years at 25 C, maintenance free, excellent deep cycle performance, extremely low self discharge rates, stackable design for maximum utilisation of space, detached valve construction, wide range starting from 2V, 100 AH up to 2V, 3000AH.
The GFM series can be used in telecommunication exchange and transmission systems, power generation plants, radio and broadcasting systems, high power UPS systems, and solar photovoltaic systems. It also conforms to following specs and certifications—ISO900; ISO1400; OHSAS18000; IEC 60896-21 2004; IEC 60896-22 2004; IEC 61056-1 2002; JIS C8704-1 1999; JIS C8704-2 1999; BS 6290-3 1999.
Relicell’s FT range
Relicell has also introduced the new Relicell FT range of products with front terminal access. With the advent of outdoor enclosed power cabinets, there is a new demand for VRLA batteries with a compact construction and big capacity with front terminal access. This category of products includes two series—FTA for 7.01 meter (23 feet) standard power supply cabinets and FTB for 5.79 (19 feet) power supply cabinets. The product features include design float life of 12 years at 25 C, narrow container width, positive and negative terminals located in front of the container for convenient installation and maintenance, plug in isolation protection plastic cover with hole on top for easy measurement, exhaust gas collection and ventilation system for safety operation, excellent cyclic performance and recovery from over discharge, high purity materials ensuring extremely low self discharge and product range from 12V, 55 AH to 12V, 175 AH. The product applications are: 7.01 meter (23 feet) and 5.79 (19 feet) outdoor power supply cabinets for telecom systems, special network and LAN power supply source systems.
The FT series conforms to following specs and certifications— ISO9001, ISO14001, OHSAS18000, IEC 60896-21 2004, IEC 60896-22 2004, IEC 61056-1 2002, IEC 61056-2 2002, JIS C8702-1 2003, JIS C8702-2 2003, JIS C8704-2 1999, BS 6290-3 1999 and JIS C8704-1 1999.
All Relicell products are backed up by a network of 47 company owned service centres across India in all major state capitals and important cities. With a highly trained and motivated support team, Relicell can provide service and support anywhere in the country. The company’s strong sales and distribution network ensures prompt availability of products with minimum lead time.