Sunday, July 5, 2009

Overhead Maze of Cables to be Cleared from Poles before 2010

Power ministry has asked providers of cable TV, internet and telephone services to remove overhanging wires.

Poles covered with maze of cable TV, telephone and internet wires are common visual in Delhi, even in most posh areas like Akbar Road and others you can easily see the huge mesh of these wires hanging on poles which create a very funny scene and looks like some alien creatures have made their homes on these poles. Now if power ministry is taking some steps, hope we may not see these aliens (laughing)... Read on...

After plans to light up Delhi during the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the power ministry wants to do its bit to clean up the city’s skyline before the big event.

Last week, it asked providers of cable TV, broadband internet and telephone services to remove the jumble of overhanging cables from electric or lighting poles, particularly on central verge of roads, and suggested that the wires be routed through a common duct dug underground throughout the city.

At a meeting with representatives from cable and communication industry and BSES and NDPL, Delhi’s two private electricity suppliers, power secretary Harishankar Brahma raised the issues of aesthetics and threat of short-circuits to make these suggestions. He told BSES and NDPL to work out with communications service providers a norm for routing overhead cables where these are allowed. He suggested that the cables should be neatly stretched and should not sag or go in arches.

Cable TV and communications industry agreed on cleaning up the layout of the wirings but said consumers would suffer if the underground plan was forced. Smaller cable operators said the plan for a common underground duct could not be implemented before the Games and it might not be feasible to remove overhanging wires completely as in some areas they were needed for last-mile connectivity in the absence of underground networks.

There are an estimated 22 lakh homes in Delhi who watch TV but only about 10% of them get their feed through satellites (direct-to-home) and may not be affected by the power ministry’s suggestions.

Cable Operators Federation of India president Roop Sharma said, "We are not against beautification but we are paying rent to power companies for use of poles. They should ensure right of use. They have threatened to cut off cables unless we take the cables underground. This will hit smaller cable operators the most."

Vikki Choudhary from the National Cable and Telecom Association said,"We have been following the procedure for laying down wires and cables but now power companies are using this opportunity to double the rent for use of electric poles. We will have to bear the cost since we cannot pass it on to the consumer."

Efforts to contact Brahma did not yield any result. But government sources said Chandigarh had worked on a common duct system. This works on the theory of existing communications service providers laying a common underground duct for fiber-optic cables used for such services, with enough extra capacity to accommodate future players on rent or lease. "This way you can do away with a situation where one or the other service provider is digging up roadsides to lay their cables" an official said.

Industry representatives, on the other hand, said underground ducting would take a long time and would affect consumers if forced at this point. They also pointed out that use of electric and lighting poles for routing communications cables was an approved method and utilities were charging Rs 800-850 per pole per year for this. Another industry executive said it might not be possible to do away with overhanging cables completely.

"Many areas where flyover or Metro work is going on, the cables are broken. In such cases, there is no alternative but to route these cable overhead, particularly for road crossing. Even utilities and phone companies have such cables in a number of spots in the city," he said.

According to this executive, some multi-system TV service providers already have 500 km of underground ducting in the city and maybe these can be brought under the plan whereby others lease capacity.