So, Just How Many Legit Antennae Do We Have on Telecom Towers in India?
The information provided by the department of telecommunications (DoT) on the Sanchar Tarang website is self-certified by the tower operator. Let that sink in for a while. It is like saying that your driving licence is issued to your basis self-certification. 
 
As per the DoT's public-private-participation (PPP) join venture with the telecom industry, there are 6,06,296 (6.06 lakh) mobile phone towers all over India and 22,11,593 (22.11 lakh) base transmitting stations (BTS) that go with them. A typical BTS is supposed to support one to six antennae but it is not unusual to see 20 or more crowding multiple towers at a location that shows one single tower on their own Tarang Sanchar website. Do the maths.
 
 
Check it out for yourself. Each of those rectangular boxes or circular dishes hanging on the mast atop or from the tower is one antenna. And antennae are becoming smaller as well as stronger every day. An antenna that can send out a beam strong enough  to disable all the people on a ship 200 metres away is no longer science fiction, as some seafarers on a small little Norwegian warship found out when they came too close to a huge warship of another country a few years ago, and it was eventually put down to a radar that had not been switched off.
 
 
Or in this case about 22 years ago, when an Indian ship got too close to an American warship, and paid the price. Faulty radio waves were eventually blamed here too. Ships have all kinds of antennae and if they send or receive signals perceived to be dangerous, then bad things happen, as will surely happen with the uncontrolled tower expansion in India.
 
 
So, just how many actual legit antennae do we have on telecom towers in India? We are not counting here the other whip or older legacy antennae or huge dish antennae in the vicinity for other reasons, which cannot really be discussed here for fear of sedition laws. One of the strong points of 3G and then 4G, for example, was that it made eavesdropping difficult. One of the realities of life that I, as a certified mariner with skill sets and more certification, albeit now expired, in legacy and satellite communications, have never understood is what are all those extra listening in type antennae doing all over the place? Commercial espionage is probably just one part of it.
 
So what is the reality of this portal Sanchar Tarang for information sharing on mobile towers and electromotive force (EMF) compliances? Let's start with some clarifications first.
 
In the rapidly emerging world of telecom, a mobile phone tower can now also be an "L" bracket along a wall, a mast on a truck or boat, and soon even a knapsack over your shoulders. As long as it can carry an antenna or antennae, it becomes a tower as defined by our department of telecommunications. All that the tower needs is power. A lot of it, actually, enough to require a generator of sizeable capacity for applications up to 4G.
 
What is EMF? Electromagnetic force, which is a polite word for radiation, just like turbo-charger was the enhanced word for economiser. To give an example, a telecom tower pumping out EMF sounds just fine and dandy even if it is right outside our window or over our head, but our favourite packet of gouda going through the radiation from a security check machine is an affront to freedom and also considered unsafe for the cheese.
 
Tarang Sanchar is an interesting portal, allegedly in English and Hindi, but the moment you click on the Hindi button - it takes you back to a complicated sign-on page which not only records your location in precise latitude and longitude terms, grabs full details of the device you are operating from (preferably laptop or computer because it does not seem to work on smartphones) but also demands your mobile phone number and email address. All for what? For looking at a map of India with the telecom towers added on.
 
Not more than three times. After that you are stopped from looking any more. Within those three times, you get the opportunity to click on a tower, and learn nothing real other than what appears to be fiction. You are also enabled to get more of the fiction by email, like this one for example –
 
 
Just in case you had any doubts, this is a government of India website, presumably paid for out of the taxpayer’s money. We, the "public", as they so generously put it.
 
So what is the fictional part of this EMF exposure status, considering that it is all of less than 40-45 metres from my home, where I am typing this out, with varying levels of headaches, tinnitus, brain strokes and more to keep me happy? I guess it makes me feel like bionic man, and maybe more intelligent too, but that's not how I know all this tech stuff. I know much of this tech stuff because I used to work on ships where we were taught a lot about transmitters, receivers, radars, wireless, not just how to operate them, but also how to repair them and the risks as well as precautions therein. And the risks of radiation. 
 
The information provided by the department of telecommunications on the Sanchar Tarang website is self-certified by the tower operator. Let that sink in for a while. It is like saying that your driving licence is issued to your basis self-certification.
 
Today, a hand-held device that can measure EMF with about 99.5% accuracy, costs between Rs3000 and Rs5000 online, easy to use and read. The better ones will also tell you the distance from the source of the EMF or radiation, and provide you an estimate of the radiation at the mast itself. Like thermometers, they can be used to measure EMF at home or at the workplace also, and it is no coincidence that the in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinic right next to D-58 shut shop and went away. Because, like thermometers, hospitals with machines that motivate excess radiation or EMF (same thing, remember) pretty much issue them to all staffers who are likely to come in contact with EMF/radiation.
 
Think of the way the complete process of taking an X-ray has changed in the last few decades. From people hanging around in the X-ray room, which could be any little cubicle somewhere, to an X-Ray machine in a very cold and isolated hall away from everyone else - even the operator is behind a secure wall with protective glass.
 
And here we have telecom towers right next door!
 
Technology is inevitable, but safety is paramount, so how do they do it in other countries - especially in densely populated cities?
 
1) The transmitters and receivers are, simply, safer. And maintained to impeccable conditions. Nobody lies about radiation. Something amiss - the antennae shut down, that's it. There are always enough back-ups, and much of really important data flows through a pipeline using wire.
 
2) The towers are way higher. Why are they not higher in India? Because it is cheaper to keep them lower where densities are high. Simple as that. More towers to absorb the high peak demand. Easier to bounce from one tower to the other. Fewer permissions the lower you keep the masts. And they cannot be seen that easily.
 
3) Most importantly - there is awareness in the people. The websites designed to provide information are certainly not based on self-certification by the tower operators. And most of all, as a citizen (different from "the public") asking for an audit is done in secrecy, without tipping off the tower operator in advance.
 
In the midst of all this, we are going to see a 5G rollout, where the number of towers required will be five to 10 times higher?
 
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(Veeresh Malik is an activist from Delhi, who continues to explore several things in life.)
Comments
sactel
1 year ago
Last year I had requested for Audit by paying upfront online fees (~Rs 4000/-) and thereby keep on following up with them ( almost 50 calls with higher-up/lower-down resources) as to when they will carry out the audit. Asking refund was looking complicated process so pursuing them to audit was the only means.
Finally the day arrived - the govt officer /auditor who was performing the audit had ome with a big measuring instrument , that was very costly -I was told.
I felt the audit was not done in true spirit and felt like an eye-wash. However, I was happy in the end (no other option) - as I was being served for my online payment with a signed report by the auditor that we were safe !

Regards,
veereshmalik
Replied to sactel comment 1 year ago
Please see my response to tnav1960 below in the context of the 4000/- test. Did you perchance get a photo of the instrument used for testing please?
sactel
Replied to veereshmalik comment 1 year ago
Yes I had photo the instrument used for testing, but right now could not trace it on my device.

It was similar in look to this device (not sure of the model) -
https://www.emchire.co.uk/product/EMF-Narda-SRM-3006-Selective-Radiation-Meter-176
veereshmalik
Replied to sactel comment 1 year ago
Thanks, the one I am going to hopefully get access to soon, will take some effort, is this one - https://aaronia-shop.com/products/spectrum-analyzer/handheld-spectrum-analyzer
sactel
Replied to sactel comment 1 year ago
The auditing govt authority was Sanchar Tarang
tnav1960
1 year ago
Author is ill informed or is delibrately misleading the public. Any tower for one tenant and one frequency band will have 3 antennae for 360° coverage. The signal strenth does not determine the coverage or the range. Coverage - number of users is a function of bandwidth slicing and Range is a function of frequency band. The signal power is based on the rsnge. Lower frequency bands like 800/900 mHz bands have a higher range therefore will higher signsl power but lower density. Whereas 1800/1900/2300mHz bands have lower range therefore signals havr lower power but require higher tower density.
The signal power is optimised for range sin order to lower the operating costs by tower operators.
By the way, the Government has not renewed 800/900 mHz frequency allocation. Therefore tower density has increased but each antenna radiates lesser power.
Tower companies have multiple tenants and in some cases antennae with multiple frequency bands where user density is high. Particularky near commercial complexes.
veereshmalik
Replied to tnav1960 comment 1 year ago
I have no idea how you assume that the author is ill-informed or misleading "the public", be that as it may, author is guided by some of the best brains in the communication business and is waiting for some responses requested on RTI which include the following -

1) Please provide me with complete information on telecom site DOT approved located at D-58, Block-D, Sthal Marg Road, Defence Colony, New Delhi - 110024, including but not limited to SACFA clearance.

2) Relevant to the above site at D-58, Block-D, Sthal Marg Road, Defence Colony, New Delhi-110024 please provide me with the following information

2a) Name and address of applicant
2b) Antenna Gain Rx in dB for all antennae
2c) Antenna Gain Tx in dB for all antennae
2d) Approximate Area covered by Antennae installation
2e) Azimuths 1 , 2 , and 3
2f) Beamwidth in degree
2g) Circuit HOP Length
2h) Class and Bandwidth of emission
2i) DoT AGreement number and copy therein
2j) Equipment type
2k) Frequency band or bands of operation with units
2l) Height of Building in meters above ground level
2m) Height of Antennae in meters above ground level
2n) Height of mast in meters above ground level
2o) Height of the site above msl in meters
2p) Service Area
2q) Size of antennae
2r) Transmitter output power
2s) Transponder Number of Operation
2t) Type of antennae and maximum field character size unit
2u) Units of transmitted output power

3) Please provide me with documents pertaining to adherence of the subject building D-58, Defence Colony, New Delhi -110024 to local Municipal Laws

4) Please provide me with information on height of D-58 Defence Colony New Delhi - 110024 vis-a-vis D-80 Defence Colony New Delhi - 110024, since D-80 appears to be higher than D-58

In addition, author has also asked for -

1a) Sanchar Tarang website states that total sites are 606296 and total BTS are 2211593. Please provide the date as on which this data is correct for.

1b) Please provide Rules and Regulations, Guidelines and adherences, for antennae of all sorts mounted on these sites and BTS.

2) Sanchar Tarang website states the EMF exposure limit (Base Station Emissions) is lowered to 1 by 10th of the existing ICNIRP exposure level effective from 1st Sept 2012. Indian standards are now 10 times more stringent than more than 90 percent countries in the world. Please provide the list of the 90 percent and 10 percent countries as on date.

3) Sanchar Tarang website states that Telecom Enforcement Resource and Monitoring (TERM) Cells have been entrusted with the job of conducting audit on the self certification furnished by the Service Providers. TERM Cell shall carry out test audit of the BTS site on random basis and on all cases where there is a public complaint. Please provide details of process used for how random basis is calculated in detail.

4) Sanchar Tarang website has not updated expert views in English on EMF since 2014. Please provide information on when further expert views will be uploaded and provided.

5) Sanchar Tarang website quotes scientific evidence from ICNIRP from 2009 and WHO from 2013. Please provide information on when further scientific evidence already published by ICNIRP and WHO will be uploaded and provided.

6)Details of equipment used for EMF Measurement Request by Public

7) Whether inspection EMF Measurement Request by Public is on surprise basis or with information to tower operator

8) Whether inspection EMF Measurement Request by Public is carried out at peak hours or otherwise.

And also

Please provide me with information on -

a) Total number of mobile phone towers in India - with breakups, surface, tower, wall, vehicle and others
b) Total number of mobile telecom phone antennae in India - with breakups, surface, tower, wall, vehicle and others
c) Basis on which charge of Rs 4000/- was set for EMF Measurement Request by Public by Tarang Sanchar, PPP with DoT, Ministry of Communications
d) Equipment used for EMF Measurement Request by Public by Tarang Sanchar, PPP with DoT, Ministry of Communications
e) Rationale on how DoT, Ministry of Communications, prescribed EMF limit (Watts per meter square) was set at 0.47005 W/m2 (Watts per meter square)
f) Numbering system followed, if any, for telecom towers and antennae by Dot, Ministry of Communication
g) Method for reporting of illegal or undocumented Telecom towers, if any, to Department of Telecom
h) Limit of number and power of antennae on telecom towers, if any.

Let me receive the responses and we can discuss further?
amitv.vohra
Replied to veereshmalik comment 10 months ago
This is all extremely helpful to know. I am dealing with a similar situation right now as the building next to me has this same problem, I reside in Safdarjung enclave. I ran a report yesterday with Tarang Sanchar with similar results as to the one you posted above which made me think this has to be a fabricated report.

I also wonder if you have received any reply to your RTI application?
veereshmalik
Replied to amitv.vohra comment 6 months ago
Nope, typical evasive, thus now.
s5rwav
1 year ago
Outrageous and Obnoxious & Atrocious. I am Babubhai Vaghela from Ahmedabad on Whatsapp Number 9409475783. Thanks.
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