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Telcos urge government action to curb wireless equipment theft

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In Short:

Indian telecom operators are asking the government for help in restricting the theft of wireless equipment like RRUs and BBUs. The theft incidents have increased significantly since October 2023, affecting companies like Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea. The thefts are concentrated in specific areas, with Delhi NCR, Rajasthan, and Andhra Pradesh being most affected. The operators are facing challenges in recovering stolen equipment and losses. They are urging the government to take strict action against the thefts and online portals selling stolen equipment.

Telecom Operators Seek DoT’s Intervention to Curb Theft of Wireless Equipment

India’s incumbent telecom operators have reached out to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for immediate action to address the rising incidents of theft of wireless equipment, particularly remote radio units (RRU) and baseband units (BBU).

Increased Incidents of Theft

In a letter to Neeraj Mittal, Secretary, DoT, SP Kochhar, Director General of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), highlighted the surge in theft incidents since October 2023. The main targets of these thefts have been RRU and BBU equipment.

COAI, representing companies like Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea, flagged the issue amidst the rapid 5G rollouts by Jio and Airtel, along with ongoing 4G network expansion projects across the country.

Geographical Impact

The theft incidents have been concentrated in specific regions like Delhi NCR, Rajasthan, Assam, Andhra Pradesh & Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Punjab & Haryana. Just 31 districts account for 50% of the reported theft cases nationwide.

Kochhar noted that many sites have experienced multiple instances of equipment theft, despite efforts by the operators to prevent such incidents.

Call for Action

COAI urged the DoT to collaborate with state authorities to prioritize complaints related to theft, ensure stringent actions against offenders, provide police protection for telecom infrastructure in vulnerable areas, and issue directives to block websites selling stolen active equipment.

The letter also highlighted online commerce platforms like Ebay, Telefly, Seeker816, Dorfatrade, and Alibaba openly selling active telecom equipment, pointing out the need for regulatory intervention.

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