Telecom Tower Industry in India

Telecom Tower Industry in India

The phenomenal growth in mobile subscribers in India over the last few years has created huge opportunities for the telecom infrastructure industry. The tower industry is growing continuously with the active support of the Government. During the early years, the mobile operators were directly involved in the installation and maintenance of the mobile towers. The intense competition in the telecom industry forced all the operators to look for opportunities to reduce the cost of operations by outsourcing network related activities which demand huge capital expenditure and operating expenditure. While some companies created their own captive tower companies, a few others pooled the towers and formed joint ventures. In India even today operator owned tower companies control more than 90% of the market share.

Industry structure

The tower companies in India are of 3 types.
1. Tower companies formed through joint ventures like Indus tower which is a joint venture by Airtel, Vodafone and Idea
2. Tower companies formed though de-merger like Reliance Infratel which is a wholly owned subsidiary of RCom
3. Independent tower companies (pure play operators) like GTL etc

Current market share of tower companies

Tower company Tenancy ratio No of towers

  • Indus 1.71x 100,000
  • Bharti Infratel 1.62x 30,000
  • WTTIL Quippo 1.84x 25,000
  • Reliance Infratel 1.74x 48,000
  • BSNL / MTNL 1.07x 45,000
  • GTL Infra 1.17x 32,000
  • Others 1.47x 50,000
  • Total 1.55x 330,00

The others include small Telecom Tower companies like Tower Vision, Aster Infrastructure, KEC International, and India Telkom Infra etc
At present India has around 330,000 towers in India and it is estimated that another 130,000 towers will be required during the next 3 years. However this projection may come down if the anticipated consolidation takes places among the telecom operators.

Operations handled by a tower company

The role of a tower infrastructure company is site planning, site acquisition and obtaining of necessary regulatory approvals, site erection and commissioning of tower and allied equipment. After the site starts radiating, the site maintenance including provision of support services such as back-up power, air-conditioning and security will be handled by the tower companies.
Currently the government policies allow sharing of both passive infrastructure and active infrastructure. Passive infrastructure is the non electronic components like tower, antenna mounting structures, BTS shelter, power supply, battery bank, invertors, diesel generator, Air conditioner etc
Active Infrastructure or Electronic Infrastructure include components like Spectrum (radio frequency), base tower station, microwave radio equipment, switches, antennas, transceivers for signal processing and transmission, etc.
While the Indian tower companies have streamlined the sharing of passive infrastructure, they are yet to operationalize the sharing of active infrastructure.