Emerging Technologies

Faster 5G roll-out: Trai runs a pilot to use traffic signals, light poles for telecom infrastructure

To fasten the roll-out of 5G networks, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has started a pilot project at Delhi’s international airport where street furniture like traffic signals, light poles, billboards etc will be utilised for deployment of telecom infrastructure. Apart from Delhi airport, similar pilots are being initiated at Kandla port in Gujarat, Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation and Bhopal smart city.

The purpose of the pilot is to ascertain how street furniture can be used to fasten the roll-out of telecom networks, specially 5G. The findings from the pilot will enable formulation of regulatory and policy framework in this regard.

For overseeing the pilot and smooth coordination, Trai has formed a working group that will have representatives from all stakeholders, including the Ministry of Civil aviation, the Department of Telecommunications, industry body COAI, telecom operators and GMR, which runs the airport.

“The learnings from the pilot will help in enabling small cell deployment at Indian airports using existing street furniture such as traffic signals, lit signage, lamp posts, light poles, utility poles, billboards etc,” Trai said in a statement.

The telecom industry has been demanding use of electricity poles for deploying small cells, which will be a key driver for effective 5G deployments. Small cells can handle high data rates and can be deployed inside the buildings, too. But there are certain challenges in the deployment like access to right of way, procedural simplification, provision of high capacity backhauls and availability of stable power that needs to be addressed.

Trai said the pilot will help in understanding these issues and ironing them out through proper planning, regulatory support and cross-sectoral collaborations.

“With regard to the deployment of small cells over poles, we’re in close contact with the DoT and coordinating with OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to provide inputs on technical specifications, aesthetics, power requirements, backhaul requirements, etc,” COAI had said in December.

Further, the industry body highlighted the challenges of laying aerial optical fibre, which serves as the backbone for small cell towers, and demanded sharing existing infrastructure like electricity poles, street lights etc.

The use of existing infrastructure in place of building new mounting towers will enable operators to deploy network at minimal cost, which will ultimately help in offering high-capacity bandwidth at competitive price.

“This is supposed to immensely benefit not only customers at airports but also enable respective controlling airport authorities to launch new business cases for providing more efficient passenger and cargo handling services,” Trai said.

As 5G services will be rolled out in higher frequency bands, which has lower coverage penetration, it will become imperative to deploy large number of small cells to cater to coverage and capacity requirements.

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