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IAFI calls for abolition of CMRTS licenses

Given that the Government has made significant progress in introducing a slew of telecom reforms including, simplifying regulations, reducing the time and cost of start projects and creating a more transparent environment, ITU-APT Foundation of India, IAFI, strongly advocates a complete review in the terms and conditions of the Public Mobile Radio Trunking (PMRTS) and Captive Mobile Radio Trunking (CMRTS) licences under UL.

In response to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) question whether review of Terms and Conditions of PMRTS and CMRTS Licenses is required, IAFI believes that there is an urgent need to review the terms and conditions of the PMRTS License and PMRTS Authorization under UL, especially since PMRTS License which was introduced in 2007 and the PMRTS Authorization under UL was started in 2013, the telecom scenario has undergone a sea change due to the commencement of 4G and 5G mobile networks. IAFI also called upon TRAI to recommend merging of CMRTS License with the WPC spectrum license for captive users keeping in mind importance of the captive users in nation building, industrial development, law and order, public safety, and utilities, in particular Metro, urban and suburban rail transport.

IAFI noted that the Department of Telecommunications has been working on a new policy for administrative allocation of radio spectrum for PMRTS and CMRTS licensees ever since the Supreme Court of India in 2012 ruled that auctions were a preferred route for allocating natural resources such as spectrum, during the 2G cellular spectrum case. IAFI noted that on a subsequent petition by the central government, the Court had allowed administrative allocation of natural resources, based on specific policies to be issued by the government on case-to-case basis in public’s interest.

Theses licenses are used by vital sectors of the economy such as government and Industries that includes:

  1. Public safety-first responders such as police, paramilitary, defence, fire, and disaster management.
  2. Other government services including forestry and natural resource departments, municipal corporations, and public utilities.
  3. Critical infrastructure services projects such as railways, metros, airports, seaports, refineries, mines, highways, and industrial complexes.
  4. Utilities, private enterprises, courier agencies, private security providers, event management agencies.

It has been estimated that by 2030, the economic value resulting from use of wireless technologies such as PMRTS, CMRTS and CNPN, running industries and enterprises on improved connectivity could generate $400 billion to $650 billion of GDP impact. IAFI thinks that here it is also pertinent to mention that the enterprise connectivity would require utmost customer centric approach where the network’s reliability, speed, latency, security, efficiency, density, etc. are defined by the enterprises themselves and can vary for each enterprise depending on their operational requirement. Several regulators, particularly in developed countries around the world have realized the importance of captive radio trunking communications by their industries and enterprises and have been proactively working towards making the necessary spectrum resources available directly for their captive needs, keeping in mind importance of these users in nation building and economic growth.

Since 2012, the Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing (WPC) has been allocating spectrum in a series of 3/6 month interim windows. Typically, after each 3-month window, the authority lapses for several months before a new interim authority is granted and the window is opened. It is critically important that radio spectrum for all captive users that share the primary mission to protect lives and property and help the country to prosper is made available seamlessly under a permanent administrative allocation process. Spectrum authorizations should be based on relatively simple application policies that require only nominal administrative fees from the agencies and organization that require use of the spectrum for “private”, non-commercial communications networks.

IAFI contends that in line with the administrative policies of countries around the world, the authorization process for private networks should be distinguished from the competitive bidding “spectrum auctions” that are commonly used to authorized commercial wireless networks that provide telecommunications services to the public on commercial basis for profit.

Captive users of mobile wireless communications, such as state and central police organizations, paramilitary forces, Metros Rail projects, airports, refineries, factories etc. are facing many problems and delays in setting up their captive communications networks due to complex and long drawn process for getting necessary CMRTS License, spectrum license and import licenses. These projects are lifeline of the country’s economic development, public safety, Industrial development and logistics and are critical to support Atamnirbhar Bharat.

The process of obtaining the necessary DOT/WPC approvals for such users takes typically between six months to two years as compared to less than a month in most developed countries. The main reason for the delay in CMRTS license is because of the sequential nature of the process, where three separate licenses have to be taken by CMRTS licensee from DOT, one after the other rather than as single approval or as a parallel process, followed in most other countries.

Currently captive users like police, paramilitary, metros, airports, refineries, factories etc. have to take a CMRTS license before they can apply for a WPC spectrum license. These captive users only need wireless spectrum for their “captive” use and no telecom service is being provided by them to the public or to anyone else. Thus, in principle, there should be no need for a separate CMRTS license under section 4 of the Indian telegraph act as these users do not provide any service to any customers and the wireless network is 100% used for internal communications and coordination purposes such as security, safety and logistics. In June 2018, the TRAI had Recommended that DoT should study the feasibility of doing away with CMRTS license for PPDR agencies as is evident from section 2.66 of these recommendations.

IAFI therefore strongly recommends that the CMRTS (Captive Mobile Radio Trunking) License be merged with the WPC spectrum license and that there should be a simplified process where the users can directly apply for spectrum to WPC, instead of first going through an elaborate CMRTS licensing process with DoT and then applying for spectrum to WPC. This will cut down the process time to less than 3 months.

Since most users of such spectrum do not exploit spectrum for commercial purposes but use it for the safety and security or for a public service. IAFI states that there is an urgent need to revisit this policy and address these concerns highlighted above. It also stresses on the urgent need to merge the CMRTS license with WPC Spectrum license, to boost the economic growth and creation of jobs.

CT Bureau

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