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SAARC: Lagging Behind

When the entire world is talking of green telecom solutions, how could the SAARC nations be left behind? After seeing deployments of green telecom solutions by Indian operators, V&D takes a look at which direction our neighbours Pakistan and Bangladesh are going in.

Though adopting green technologies has not been as large as that in India, SAARC operators in the region have built the foundation. Pakistan is in a better position than many other neighbouring countries. Most SAARC countries are facing energy shortage and high oil and electricity prices add to the pressure. The focus of SAARC operators is to curb opex.

In India very few technologies have remained untouched by the green wave. The evolution and adoption of these technologies increases the standard and helps increase revenue.

Slow Adopters
The non-availability of power and other energy resources are forcing telcos to opt for green solutions. In many SAARC nations the impact of green initiatives has not been that strong but the implementations are slowly happening. As 3G comes to play in almost all these nations, it would bring an explosion of data and companies will be bound to have better networks and better managed data centers-more reasons to adopt green.

After India it is Pakistan that is big on green, as compared to nations like Bangladesh and Nepal. The Government of Pakistan is strongly pursuing green telecom initiatives, although its main focus is limited to towers. However, there is not much attention being paid toward controlling pollution in the form of CO2, noise or heat.

Things are set to change though. Green has now become a way to increase the topline and bottomline for operators in Pakistan.

In Pakistan, next generation network (NGN) is the key driver of green initiatives. “The operators are deploying more and more NGNs and using IP transmission modes, which will help use the equipments to its maximum and, therefore, reduction in heat and noise emission as well as lesser use of fossil fuels,” says Ahmad Nadeem Syed, director, interconnect and regulatory economics, Mobilink.

The existing alternate energy resources are not environment-friendly and are costly to operate. There is a huge potential of telecom growth in the SAARC region and almost all operators are expanding their networks to rural or underdeveloped areas where there is no grid supply.

We can start with energy saving lamps, using heat resistant walls in rooftop base stations

Nizam Uddin Ahmed Chowdhury, chief project coordinator, Dhaka Telephone Company

Effective voice and video communication can directly contain the extent of greenhouse gas emissions

Fida Haq, CIO, Mango Teleservices

Another major telecom provider in Pakistan, Telenor Pakistan also agrees that electricity is a major problem area and it is very important to look into the matter. “We are using solar and diesel hybrid solutions as part of our green power for mobile networks. In addition we are also looking at other hybrid solutions, ie, wind and solar which represents a financially feasible power alternative outside of the initial start-up costs; operational and maintenance costs are practically zero; and it drastically reduces the opex costs. This is very important as diesel bills and theft issues will be capped by this option as well,” says Irfan Khan, executive vice president, Telenor Pakistan.

A Long Way to Go
In Bangladesh the green initiatives are still at a very nascent stage and operators are only exploring the possibilities of implementation.

Nizam Uddin Ahmed Chowdhury, chief project coordinator, Dhaka Telephone Company says, “We can start with energy saving lamps, using heat resistant walls in rooftop base stations to save on electrical energy required for air-conditioning, etc. In the meantime we may plan a suitable environment-modelling program.”

Most service providers in Bangladesh are still at the planning stage. A lot of seminars would be held on green to take concrete steps. In Dhaka Telephone Company, where green implementation is limited to energy saving lamps and using heat resistant walls, technological implementation have still a long way to go. Having said that, it cannot be denied that it is a positive start, one that Indian operators can learn from as well.

Tower-sharing and going for greener base stations is another field where the Bangladesh regulatory is laying emphasis on. “The regulators here have already set up the framework for infrastructure sharing which adds to a more environment-friendly telco in general but the uptake of the policy by the players is still to be seen. Probably, more significantly the climate of the region is very conducive for switching to greener solutions in terms of powering up BTS towers and BSC operations,” says Fida Haq, CIO, Mango Teleservices.

Wind and solar, which represent a financially feasible power alternative outside of the initial start-up costs are practically zero

Irfan Khan, executive vice president, Telenor Pakistan

The operators are deploying more and more NGNs and using IP transmission modes

Ahmad Nadeem Syed, director, Interconnect and Regulatory Economics, Mobilink

Not only Bangladesh, but Pakistan is also looking toward solar powered BTS. Recently, a Pakistan telecom provider Warid Telecom signed a deal with Huawei to deploy its first ever solar powered macro BTS.

As countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have a huge rural base, it is important for service providers to look into the rural side also as a large potential subscribers base lies here.

Infrastructure Going Green
A strong telecommunications infrastructure is critical in running businesses which create a significant contribution toward an enabling economy. If the enablement isn’t happening through the power grid, companies will be forced to look at other avenues. Over the long term, companies will be able to better understand the workings of solar power and use it as an effective means of generating environmentally-friendly power. Companies have also started to look at technologies that would play a vital role to cut costs and at the same time, aid to environment.

Voice and video are perhaps the two best examples that show the seriousness of companies towards green. The use of voice and video would mean lesser travel, thus lesser usage of fossil fuels.

“Operators in Pakistan are also looking into voice services to leverage new customer base where they do not have a presence. It is likely to benefit the future sales directly arising from the newly stimulated demand,” says Irfan Khan.

Though things are at a nascent stage in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the new era of green technologies has come and a lot of deployment will be seen soon. The major problem with the entire Indian sub-continent continues to be polices and red tapes. Any new policy would go under such a long procedure that it would end its vigor by the time it gets executed. In Bangladesh the condition is such that the policies are yet to be even framed by regulators. Things are still better in Pakistan where mobile operators are working to introduce mobile commerce products and services, which will indirectly help achieve green telecom objectives. Various operators have signed tower sharing agreements on their own. The Government of Pakistan is in the process of formulating a policy with respect to making tower sharing mandatory for operators. And as the country is going through enormous energy crisis green becomes a must.

Sunny Sen & Gagandeep Kaur

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