Last year Punjab government intimated mobile service providers and advertising agencies to shift their power source from electric to solar after 30th June 2010. However, on the intervention of federal government, Punjab I&P department extended deadline for telecom companies. Around 50 to 60 megawatts of electricity could be saved by converting the power source, but neither Punjab government nor Ministry of Environment has managed to implement the plan fully. Earlier in a joint respond filed to MoIT (Ministry of Information and Telecommunication) , telecom operators had expressed their inability to shift their towers on solar energy. “You know, Punjab government has made an unrealistic demand. It is quite impossible for the industry to shift all its towers on solar energy due to shortage of solar cells in the market”, stated an official of the telecom sector.
This plan is yet to be implemented, but ministry of Water and power put forwarded new energy conservation measures for the upcoming six months on 13th April 2011. Federal Minister of water and power, Naveed Qamar was briefing National assembly about the measures, he said, “Power supply to billboards and decorative lightings to commercials would be cut off”. A telecom company official said that move to convert BTS towers from electric power supply to solar energy was “like a bomb shell” on the telecom industry. “Everyone is bewildered and clueless. We are bound to follow the guidelines of the PTA and the federal ministry. Notices from the Punjab government were beyond understanding,” he added.
Shifting BTS sites from electric to solar energy needs heavy investment from both government and operators. However:
* We should not forget the efforts of Telecom sector in this regard. Warid Telecom was the first one to deploy Solar Powered Macro Base Station (BTS) in Pakistan in 2008.It has enabled Warid telecom to increase its service range in the far flung areas where electricity in not available.
* Telenor Pakistan is the first one to complete largest solar-powered communication network in Universal Service Fund-assisted areas.
* Zong is working aggressively towards the solar solutions. The company is near to complete 100 solar cells sites.
* Out of 50 solar power cell sites 47 are in the USF-assisted areas of Mirpur Khas and Bahawalpur. The other sites are deployed in Islamabad and Khyber pukhtoonkhawah.
* Mobilink and Ufone have also signed agreement for tower sharing which will help in elimination of carbon footprint and energy conservation.
Since converting the energy source from electric to solar power is a highly expensive plan, government should play its part practically rather than enforcing it illogically. Either government should subsidize the project or assist Telco’s by launching soft taxation policies.
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