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Vi disagrees with Jio and Airtel on CLS framework

Indian telecom operators have asked the government to recognise the laying of cables and their repair as critical and essential services. Accordingly, the telcos want the government to give fast approvals/permits/clearances to requests/applications associated with cable laying and repair. Telecom operators have suggested that the current cable landing stations (CLS) framework should be amended so that the process of approvals can be streamlined to ensure that it happens quickly. This suggestion from the telcos comes in response to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI’s) consultation paper on the Licensing Framework and Regulatory Mechanism for Submarine Cable Landing in India.

The DoT had sought views from TRAI on the licensing framework and regulatory mechanism for submarine cable landing in India.

Voda Idea is not in agreement with the other two telcos that there should be a financial threshold for entities wanting to set up a cable landing station (CLS) in India. Both Jio and Airtel had suggested that there needs to be a criterion for allowing a licensed ILDO/ISP who wants to set up a CLS and terminate any submarine international cable in India over its CLS. Their stand is, the criteria should include minimum net worth and holding a minimum equity percentage (i.e. 10% stake or investment), either directly or indirectly in the proposed submarine cable/consortium.

In its counter comments on TRAI’s consultation paper Vi wrote, “In our view, such conditions will only favour ILDOs with big pockets as they would have financial backing to acquire stake and own subsea assets. It may lead to a monopoly in the ILDO-CLS segment. Giving hold to deep pocketed players on cable landing stations and international capacities would lead to vertical price squeeze as they may be able to influence pricing and availability of such capacities to other Indian operators.”

The telco maintains that as long as the applicant ILDOs meet all the security-related technology requirements, the licensing, regulatory norms and permission process should be kept simple to encourage more participation and healthy competition.

CT Bureau

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