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Less mobile towers, low spectrum causes for call drops
Sunday December 14, 2014 6:28 PM, Aparajita Gupta, IANS

Call drops are a recurring problem for phone users and even Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, addressing a telecom conference here Sunday over phone, became a victim. Experts blame lower spectrum availability and less telecom towers for this daily menace.

"There are call drops because signal levels are lower as we (India) have adopted a standard, which is one-tenth of international standard of radiation," R.K. Arnold, member, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said at a session on "Mobile Telephony and Public Health" organised by Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) on the sidelines of the International Telecommunication Union-T SG5 meeting.

In India, the specified limit of radiation is one-tenth the global norms, while 90 percent of the countries follow the international limit. This is despite a recent Gujarat High Court verdict holding that base stations for wireless data and mobile communications pose no threat to health.

Arnold added that telecommunications is beneficial for socio-economic concerns, but now the increasing concern of people on electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation is superseding the social cause.

"We have to take a balanced view in this matter. We have to remove the fear from the minds of the people. We need to start an awareness campaign to achieve that. We have conducted various studies and TRAI have concluded recently that so far there is no such proof of health hazard from EMF radiation or otherwise," he added.

The government is planning to work in this regard, an official said.

"The DoT (department of telecom) has directed TERM (Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring) cell across country to conduct workshops, interact with media and other steps to allay fear among general public on radiation from mobile towers," TERM's Deputy Director General for Kerala V Raghunandan said.

On the same note, Rajan S. Mathews, director general of COAI, told IANS: "In India, we need two things - more spectrum and more mobile towers. That is the ideal combination."

A combination of more towers and less spectrum is the root cause for poor connectivity.

"India has about 935 million mobile connections. These connections are made possible by an interconnected network of about 500,000 cell towers at present. Future growth of mobile networks offering 3G, 4G and other advanced technologies will depend heavily on building additional cell towers," he said.

On the Rs.1 lakh crore envisaged knowledge economy programme of the present government 'Digital India' or the smart cities programme, Mathews noted that all these need more telecom infrastructure like electronic equipment, towers and coverage.

These infrastructural improvements will be crucial for rolling out fibre optics in gram panchayat, improving electrnics and changing mobile connectivity of third generation (3G) and fourth generation (4G), he said.

"The proliferation of radio communication stations in urban and rural environments has raised public concerns regarding human exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF). This public concern has arisen in large part from the misinformation and vested interests spread by certain misguided activists.

"This has impacted the expansion of the vital Infrastructure requirements of mobile networks, in the form of availability of towers; and without the requisite infrastructure the dream of 'Digital India' will remain a pipe dream," Mathews added.

In the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17), the government has kept aside Rs.8 lakh crore investment towards telecom and communications.

About the much talked-about health hazard issue from telecom towers, Mathews said: "WHO (World Health Organisation) continues to review the health hazard aspect from mobile tower emission. They will come out with a report by mid-21015 that will indicate how it looks like."

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