For a mobile service provider, it was ‘signal strength’ of an area that would bring in customers. This was addressed by installing antennae to guarantee connectivity and earn customer loyalty.
In their zeal at expanding coverage, some companies obtained permission for installing towers from the concerned civic body and others did not. Some developers and landlords who permitted these towers to be installed on their terraces did not get clearance from the authorities.
The telecom providers were ready to pay huge amounts initially, to get a foothold in areas that were a promising market. Cash-starved landlords and societies were happy to join hands, as this was a source of additional revenue.
However, it led to corruption in many societies as the company would pay a small amount to the society officially and the office bearers would pocket a large chunk in cash and permit installation. The annual rent would range from Rs 4-12 lakh depending on the location and building height.
Now, after society itself seems to have become divided on the lines of those who see no harm in towers, citing inconclusive evidence of mobile towers and health risks, others who oppose them and some others who fall somewhere in between, there is increased awareness of the three issues related to mobile phone towers: Firstly, the legal status of the tower, secondly, possible corruption in installation and thirdly, the alleged negative impact on health.
It has been seen that many buyers now avoid properties near mobile towers or even the bouquet of antennas. Many have already complained to the society and to the local authorities and asked for the removal of towers.
Flat rates facing the mobile tower or antenna are lesser than the other flats in the same building now, say some. Flats that face mobile towers have seen a reduction in the range of 5-10 per cent on the lump sum cost in some cases. It has now come full circle. Residents who prized a mobile tower, are now willing to pay a premium to stay away from it.
With inputs from: Devang Mehta, Jenny Karakasia and Pratiksha Shetty