Towering ambition for rural cell coverage in India

Installation company has rights to 85,000 electricity towers in India to deploy cellular network equipment. But it won't use power from the lines above to power the base stations.

Electricity towers carrying high voltage transmission lines across rural India will be used to site mobile base station equipment powered by a range of energy sources, following a 15 year deal between Microqual and Intelligent Energy.

Microqual is a manufacturer of site infrastructure products and also provides professional services for the installation and deployment of sites. Under a framework agreement signed with India’s largest electricity transmission company, it has access to 85,000 electricity towers for use as sites for mobile base stations and antennas.

Building dedicated towers for mobile comms infrastructure in rural India is not cost-efficient, the companies claim, but siting equipment onto electricity towers offers a cost-effective alternative.

However, the base station equipment cannot be powered using the same grid that the towers support as there is no access for maintenance or support to the overhead power.

So alternative generation solutions from Intelligent Energy, including air-cooled fuel cells, will instead be used to power site equipment.

Under the agreement, Intelligent Energy will provide energy generation and management services to the Microqual transmission tower estate across India, as Microqual in turn provides network transmission sites to its Mobile Network Operator customers.

That will make it possible to provide a cheaper supporting mobile infrastructure, the companies say.

A press release from Intelligent Energy said:
“The collaboration, the first of its kind in India, will significantly reduce the cost of rolling out mobile phone telephony across parts of India’s hinterland, helping bring services to a greater proportion of the country’s rural population. It also enables the use of electricity towers for last-mile mobile phone coverage by providing an independent source of energy from the existing high voltage lines which cannot be relied upon to power localised equipment due to access and maintenance restrictions.”

Intelligent Energy will be supplying the technology through its Indian subsidiary, Essential Energy.