It’s commendable that the country’s media watchdog, the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) will require from next month, the sharing of certain infrastructure like telecom towers and poles.
The move should foster competition in the IT sector by attracting new players, as a significant hurdle, that of investing in building costly infrastructure, has been done away with.
New entrants into the market will be able to invest more effectively and concentrate on other areas of their services like innovation, customer service, and in offering better deals, instead of being blocked from the very start.
For those already in the market, like the private radio stations and Internet service providers, the same advantages will apply. This should enable them to take their services beyond Thimphu city.
But that will happen only if the rental rates on the infrastructure are reasonable.
At least one radio station has already attempted to lease space on a telecommunications company’s tower but found the rates too high for a small business enterprise.
While the rates may be left to the market to decide, it would make sense for the regulator to step in and attempt to create a middle ground so that both sides can agree on a price. It would be a small price to pay for the large infrastructure owning companies, mostly state owned, to share already empty space on their towers, with small start ups and businesses that would be contributing to the country’s socio-economic growth.
Another reason for the infrastructure-sharing rule is to minimise the number of towers in Bhutan. While more towers mean better services, less call drops, less cut offs, faster internet, and an income for those who provide land or space for the towers to be built on, among others, in a country blessed with beautiful scenery, a tower is an eyesore.
But just simply being an eyesore should not compromise provision of services to communities. Where there is need for a tower, it should be built, eyesore or not.
While BICMA has ruled out any adverse health impacts caused by telecom towers, many still believe that being exposed to such infrastructure could cause long term health damage. Opinions are divided. Either way, any possibility of long-term health impacts would be minimised following implementation of the rule.