The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said that the Centre should mandate the right-of-way (RoW) in the upcoming Indian Telecommunication Act to make infrastructure deployment legally-binding to local municipalities, states, and the Union government departments.
“Our demand to the government is that now in the new Telecom Bill, it should make right-of-way (RoW) legally enforceable on all, whether it is a municipality or state government or Central ministries. They have to obey the law,” SP Kochhar, director general, COAI, told ET Telecom.
Delhi-based COAI represents telecom carriers – Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea as well as gear makers such as Cisco, Ciena, Ericsson, Nokia and Juniper.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had to amend RoW rules multiple times in order to make a way for service providers and their infrastructure partners to easily deploy and expand telecom networks in the country.
The amendments in the Indian Telegraph Right of Way (RoW) Rules 2016 were made in 2017, 2021, 2022 and 2023.
In the recently-amended RoW framework, a provision for license for multiple sites in a single application for deploying small cells, has been made in addition to mandating the Central government departments to put up indoor infrastructure without levying any administrative fee.
The new framework also allowed to set up temporary overground telegraph infrastructure without any fee in a scenario when the existing infrastructure is damaged or destroyed.
But, the telco group said that the Centre should further mitigate a few challenges at local levels, and added that there was a need to lay down a nationally-accepted law to essentially fast-forward building permissions at a reasonable and uniform pricing.
In August this year, the Union Cabinet approved the Indian Telecommunication Bill 2023, aimed at revamping and modernising the country’s telecom sector, and once ratified by the Parliament, it could empower the Centre to waive fees, interest, charges, penalties, and even offer exceptions in certain conditions.
The proposed law would replace the existing Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950.
Over the past few months, the situation, according to Kochhar, has improved, but he added that
previous rules have not become absolutely compliant to the existing RoW policy. “Even today, the state governments and even Central ministries are not giving permissions as envisaged in the policy.”
Further, he said that the service quality norms have become very stringent and violations of quality of service are not acceptable, but the challenges plaguing the network quality should also be looked into.
“We are transiting from 4G to 5G. 5G in areas like Delhi. So, some areas of 5G, others are 4G. So that handover from 4G to 5G, that has got quality of service issues. Secondly, even in 5G rollout areas, we require permission of small cells which should be on what is called street furniture. That is an ongoing task,” he said.
Following the commercial launch of next generation or 5G services, started last year, the quality of service (QoS) has once again re-surfaced with the sector regulator working on to revisit some of the parameters to make norms more stringent.
Last year, the sector watchdog suggested norms to use street furniture such as electric poles and bus shelters to further improve 5G service quality in the country.
Early this year, the Department of Telecommunications had asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to come out with revised QoS rules in consonance with advancement in technologies. The regulator is expected to notify more granular service quality regulations including for 5G services after a stakeholder consultation process. Telecom Talk