Indian tower industry is going through interesting times. On the one hand 4G is being deployed by most of the service providers in the country and on the other hand, Government-led initiatives like Digital India and Smart City are likely to provide impetus to the sector.
The sector is also going through consolidation. Recently, American Tower Company (ATC) acquired Viom Networks in one of the biggest M&A deals in the country.
In an email interaction with The Telecom Times, Sameer Sinha, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Indus Towers highlighted the trends, opportunities and challenges being faced by the tower industry in the country.
Here are the excerpts from the interview:
Indian tower segment is undergoing consolidation. Is Indus Towers also looking at acquisition targets? If yes, what kind of a company would be a perfect fit for Indus?
Indus Towers is a consolidation of three leading Indian telecom operators: Airtel, Vodafone and Idea. While the company is open to acquisitions in the sector, we are currently focusing on our India business expansion on the back of the aggressive launch of 4G services. Hence, we are limiting our expansion to towers where the growth has been continuous and core to our operations. Our current emphasis is majorly on tower sites and we are positive about exploring opportunities that fit in the overall plan of reducing time for rollouts and costs for our customers.
What are the growth areas for the company in the current fiscal?
We believe that the company’s growth lies in the growth of its people and therefore we focus on the well-being of our employees with emphasis on their training and all-round development. While we continue to strengthen ourselves, our core focus remains on business growth, taking our Green commitment further, happy and safe employees ecosystem and keeping our stakeholders physically, emotionally and financially happy.
Furthermore, we understand that success in the future depends on innovation. Therefore, we are exploring new ways for innovative equipment and methods, and innovate ways of optimizing energy. In the telecom sector specifically, innovation is required in how our towers are designed; be it in non-traditional or smaller infrastructure. We are working towards and ensure that with this continued momentum around core telecommunications businesses, as well as innovation around non-traditional business models and evolving communications technologies – we will address both new challenges and growth opportunities for telecommunications companies.
How big is the 4G opportunity for Indus?
Currently, most of the telecom operators are preparing to offer services in the 4G space and are concerting their efforts in engineering new strategies and roll out campaigns offering bundled data plans and affordable 4G enabled smartphones. Liberalising spectrum has also allowed operators to provide 4G and 3G on lower bands across multiple regions. The biggest opportunity is presented by the emergence of new spectrum and broadband data, which creates opportunities across the value chain of equipment vendors, solution providers, content and value-added service application developers and tower companies. Initiatives like ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ have fashioned greater opportunities for operators and manufacturers as well. Undoubtedly, Indus Towers is witnessing accelerated growth in 3G, 4G and even 2G installations over last year and is seeking new opportunities in initiatives like smart cities.
What are the major challenges you face in the market? Radiation is a big concern in the Indian market, how challenging it is to acquire sites for towers?
Recently, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) experts claimed that radiation from electro-magnetic fields (EMF) of mobile towers does not have any ‘adverse health effects’ either on adults or on children in the country. We are engaging with several sections of society including the intellectuals to understand and identify the truths/facts and to take adequate measures to establish the correct scientific basis of these myths. Moreover, Indus Towers ensures operators who are installing BTSs are adhering to certification norms as prescribed by Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for this purpose.
How many green sites do you have? What is the growth plan for this?
We crossed a milestone of 50,000+ green sites across 15 telecom circles utilizing non-polluting backup sources of energy. The company is working on reducing energy consumption with our SHUT AC project (launched in January 2013) by installing FCUs (Free Cooling Units) and by removing ACs from the sites. As on 31st March 2016, of over 1.19 lakh tower sites that the company has, 50,461 are green sites and 41,484 are outdoor sites. Furthermore, we plan to invest about Rs 4000 million ($59.2mn) this financial year on innovative energy projects further strengthening our green commitment.