Policy making in times of rapidly changing technology is not easy. Here is a description of the architecture of the new 5G networks: The new technology, known as 5G, delivers wireless internet at far faster speeds than existing cellular connections. But it also requires different hardware to deliver the signals. Instead of relying on large towers placed far apart, the new signals will come from smaller equipment placed an average of 500 feet apart in neighborhoods and business districts. Much of the equipment will be on streetlights or utility poles, often accompanied by containers the size of refrigerators on the ground.
Improving the quality of policy proposals in the Budget Daily FT Opinion by Rohan Samarajiva I have been immersed in discussions in various media platforms about the 2018 Sri Lanka Budget. A budget speech seeks to communicate the direction of government policy to other economic actors. While it is a coherent and forward-looking document overall, the 2018 Budget does contain some problematic proposals that will have to be walked back or quietly buried. In this op-ed published in the Financial Times, I discussed a solution: Every Budget Speech includes complex policy measures. Given the traditions associated with the Budget Speech, it is not possible to conduct public consultations on each of the measures beforehand.
Learning from the experience of others, the licensing regime in Myanmar made it possible for companies that specialized in the operation of towers to function (unlike, say, in Sri Lanka). When the main business of a company is the leasing of space for antenna, it has incentives to use the towers most efficiently and to allow as many mobile network operators to use the space as possible. It is not that concerns over aesthetics and health are absent, but it would be fair to say that Myanmar could not have made the rapid progress it has achieved without this element of intelligent policy design. Fortunately for Myanmar’s telecom infrastructure companies, the market for rooftop real estate is booming. A fourth telco is due to launch this year, and Telenor and Ooredoo are in the midst of a major urban rollout.
In the US, they included preemption powers in the 1996 Communication Act to enable the FCC to override state and municipal authorities on communication-related approvals. This was considered draconian. In my recommendations to governments, I have always been cautious about taking away the power of lower-levels of government. But it looks like the traffic situation in the Philippines has caused intelligent Senators to call for extreme measures. DICT Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr.
Just a few sentences but this is a new solution to a real problem. I propose to form a special purpose company under the Information and Communication Technology Authority (ICTA) to bring about sharing of telecommunication resources efficiently and to protect air waves and the environment. All the fiber optics owned by telecommunication companies and other authorities including the Ceylon Electricity Board, Road Development Authority and Sri Lanka Railways as well as spectrum and mobile towers are to be brought into this company. Here are my answers to a journalist’s questions: 1) The budget has proposed the creation of a special purpose company under the ICTA to own and operate telecom backbone infrastructure. Is this practically possible?
It appears that getting sites to build towers is one of the biggest barriers to rapid rollout of mobile networks in Myanmar. One operator, MPT, has an advantage in that it owns land in all major population centers. The claim that they are examining tower quality before offering sharing is one that I would take with a grain of salt, were I the regulator. The sooner the assessments are completed, the easier life will be for its competitors. So I can imagine the priority being given to this task.
The trigger for this post was a call from an outlying area in Sri Lanka. A concerned citizen had got hold of my number and wanted my advice on the effects of cell towers an an observed increase in lightning strikes in his area. I told him that people tend to associate new things like cell towers with increases in lightning strikes, without factoring in the possibilities that (a) there was really no change in lightning strikes, there just appeared to be an increase; and (b) other factors may have changed, including the houses that were being hit by lightning. I said that I could not agree to explanations that went counter to basic physics, namely that high objects such as cell towers would not attract lighting and would instead cause lighting to hit objects that were lower in elevation such as houses. I directed him to several government agencies, including the Telecom Regulatory Commission which was said to have launched a nationwide study on the subject.
Sri Lanka is a small and densely populated country.  When the oldest mobile operator (started business in 1989) says that it is adding 40 towers a month, it shows a real hard push to increase coverage in rural Sri Lanka.  The reward is reaching 2 million customers and high customer satisfaction ratings, according to the CEO. Sri Lankan mobile operator Tigo, a unit of Millicom International Cellular, said it had reached two million subscribers in 2008 after heavy investments to expand its network coverage. A statement from the company, formerly known as Celltel Lanka, attributed the growth to “network expansion, the strength of the brand and excellent customer service.