More Bars in More Places


celltowers1Matt Mullenweg, who is in New Delhi with me to attend WordCamp India, made a funny and somewhat ironic observation about the cellular coverage here, especially on his iPhone (s aapl): More bars in more places. Of course, that is the (somewhat misleading) tagline for AT&T’s (s t) wireless service.

The reason for the better coverage is tied to the large number of cell towers that sit on top of both homes and commercial buildings (see pic). These cell towers are everywhere; they’re as visible as the cable TV lines strung on the side of electricity poles. The cell tower business in India has drawn some major investor interest, and there has been a lot of consolidation in the market. Comparatively speaking, we actually have much bigger towers in the U.S.



@Manu, I’m not sure of the current rates, and I don’t think there’s a “typical” price, its more a demand and supply equation based on criteria like location. My landlord was charging 25k per tower but that was some years back


@Cherian: What is the typical price charged by landlords from cell companies ?


There are two cell towers on top of the apartment where I stay here in Delhi and the landlord makes more money from those towers than he does from the other six tenants combined:-) Delhi is pretty well covered by all the providers since it has around 20 million subscribers, the exception being Central Delhi, aka the Lutyens Bungalow Zone where there are rather severe security and aesthetics related restrictions on the proliferation of cell phone towers. A 2005 Telecom Regulatory Authority of India(TRAI) report notes that Central Delhi only had 18 cell sites as against a requirement of 153 cell sites.
I’ve even come across mobile cellphone towers mounted on trucks and stationed permanently in certain areas like Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi which is in an elevated location. I also recall this interview with Arun Sarin of Vodafone where he was asked for his one takeaway from Vodafone’s entry into India. He said all over the world the equipment for Vodafobne cell sites were kept in an airconditioned environment on the assumption the equipment was fragile but the local engineers in India very confidentally told him there was no need for air conditioning and they turned out to be right and saved Vodafone a ton of money in the bargain!



in India some village you won’t get water to drink but you will get your cellular coverage. i believe you have some problem in your unlocked iphone


Bigger/higher towers are not better towers. They serve a different purpose. You get better coverage but because of it, your frequency re-use is more restricted. Lower towers and antenna placement are much better for high density areas as they allow much greater frequency reuse. Some of the current DAS setups take this one step further.

Sriram Vadlamani

Tower business is a pretty good residual income for people owning a house in India. In biggers cities it earns more than the usual house rent.

Inspite of these, Home Minister Chidambaram was complaining to Sunil Bharti Mittal about the call drops in Lutyens area.

Matt must be really lucky to get them bars.


In Haiti, where I’m from, 90% of all towers are on top of building. even residential houses. Everywhere you go you have perfect reception

Jesse Kopelman

“we actually have much bigger towers in the U.S.”

When I was at AT&T Wireless doing the GSM migration we brought in consultants for their real-world GSM experience and they were invariably foreign (nobody thought much of any experience to be gleaned from those who had worked at Omnipoint or Voicestream, I guess). These guys were always amazed that we had towers >150′ let alone so many >200′ in, the relatively populous, New England (you go to the Midwest and you’ll see plenty of >400′ towers). The pioneering work for RF propagation modeling at > 1GHz was done under the assumption that no one in their right mind would have antenna heights of >150′ . . .

Tarun Dua

Welcome to Delhi Om. Its the wedding season around here and hope you enjoy a few wedding ‘processions’ :-). That is my excuse for being out of town and missing your keynote at the wordcamp.

Q dub

That sure improves coverage, but what about capacity? Last I checked, the Indian government had a habit of doling out spectrum in 1Mhz fragments

Om Malik

That might be hard information to find, at least for now. I am sure I have some stats somewhere on my desktop.


Does anyone have metrics on the number of basestations(all sizes and form) in India vs US?

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