Indian telcos say theft of wireless radio gear is getting worse

Indian telcos say theft of wireless radio gear is getting worse
Image credit: Kabiur Rahman Riyad | Unsplash

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has reportedly urged the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to do more to stop the theft of telecoms gear from cell towers, which has escalated in the last few months amid aggressive 5G rollouts.

According to ETTelecom, the COAI – which represents Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea – sent a letter to DoT secretary Neeraj Mittal last Thursday saying that incidents of theft have increased “multi-fold” since October 2023.

COAI Director General SP Kochhar said in the letter that thieves are mainly making off with remote radio units (RRUs) and baseband units (BBUs). He also said that theft is particularly rampant in Delhi NCR, Rajasthan, Assam, Andhra Pradesh & Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Punjab & Haryana, “with just 31 districts contributing to as much as 50% of the theft incidents reported pan India”, the report said.

The letter also said that a “huge number of sites” have been robbed multiple times and claims that the stolen gear is being openly sold on e-commerce sites such as Ebay, Telefly, Seeker816, Dorfatrade, and Alibaba, according to the report.

Kochhar added that in most cases, telcos are unable to recover both the stolen equipment and the subsequent losses in replacing them. 

The increase in theft cases comes as Jio and Airtel complete their rollouts of 5G technologies across the country, while Vodafone Idea has started its rollout and is planning to launch 5G in the second half of this year,

The COAI letter asked the DoT to contact all state chief secretaries to prioritise telecoms theft cases, arrange police protection for telecoms infrastructure and block websites selling the equipment, the report said.


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