How telecoms will benefit from Right of Way rules from DoT

telecom-tower-technologyIndustry associations COAI and ASSOCHAM have welcomed new uniform Right of Way (RoW) rules by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

DoT’s new uniform Right of Way (RoW) rules will be applicable across the entire country. India has more than 900 million mobile customers. The new RoW guidelines will simplify and streamline the process of RoW approvals, resulting in better connectivity, enhanced speeds, more coverage and reduction in call drops for consumers.

Manoj  Sinha, minister for Communications and JS Deepak, secretary of Telecom, were instrumental in announcing the RoW guidelines.

The Indian telecom industry is expecting that RoW rules will simplify the process of site acquisition for installation of mobile towers and expedite the provision of mobile infrastructure.

The rules will streamline the process of clearances for setting up mobile towers by making provisions for single-window clearance through a nodal officer in states. Receiving licenses for laying optical fiber cables will become easy.

Introduction of uniformity in rules across different states will eliminate the unnecessary paperwork. Earlier, telecom industry faced duplication in compliance, confusion, unproductive, inefficient systems and processes.

The Government’s emphasis on restructuring the fee means telecoms will have to pay a nominal one-time administrative fee that will cover administrative costs for obtaining permits and licenses for the installation of telecom infrastructure.

The India Government has specified a period of 60 days for granting RoW permits. This means that telecoms will be free overhead costs due to delays. The introduction of an online application system will help telecom operators to file applications for obtaining licenses and track applications online.

Sunil Sood, MD and CEO of Vodafone India

In the telecom sector, during the last two and a half years, several progressive steps have been taken transforming India from spectrum scarce to a spectrum surplus nation.  Game-changers like EKYC using Aadhar for on boarding customers and GST are being introduced. The ROW Rules 2016 are another major step towards making processes simple and progressing towards a stable and transparent policy regime. It will further contribute immensely towards improving ease of doing business, hasten roll out of networks, help attract more investments and enable a faster realisation of Digital India.

Rajan S Mathews, director general of COAI

The telecom industry is appreciative of this move, which is being widely celebrated across the telecom sector as speedy rollout of optical fiber cable (OFC) and over-ground telecom infrastructure are the key to fulfilling the Government’s long-term goal of a Digital India.

P Balaji, chairman, National Council on Telecommunication and Convergence

Along with key policy changes on spectrum harmonisation, spectrum trading and sharing, paperless eKYC, the now released Right of Way Rules is another major step in simplifying processes and offering stable regime for future fit investments.

Anand Agarwal, CEO and director of Sterlite Technologies

The RoW policy is valuable for the creation of smarter data networks – the backbone of information highways in India. This new policy addresses transparency in payments and brings predictability in approvals. The policy will streamline the permission procedure and enable us in timely deployment of smarter optical fiber networks in a transparent manner. These broadband highways will connect rural India (through BharatNet) to urban (Smart Cities) regions, becoming a strong foundation to realise the Digital India targets.

Highlights of the newly notified rules, apart from the 60-day grant limit, are the setting up of the electronic application process, standardisation of administrative costs and positional intelligence (GIS mapping) on underground infrastructure.

Sanjeev Kakkar, president and CSO – Vihaan Network 

RoW guidelines from DoT are likely to improve the ease of doing business as it will create conditions for enhancing efficiency, competitiveness and curtailing cost of operations. We expect the notification to have a far-reaching impact on almost all aspects of operations in the field of telecom infrastructure, from pricing of installation to seeking permission from local urban bodies when laying out optic fiber.

TV Ramachandran, president of Broadband India Forum

Probably the biggest hurdles to roll-out of OFC and tower infrastructure during the last few years have been the variable and impractical procedures and high levies imposed by different states and local bodies across the country. The BIF believes that the latest Gazette Notification by the DoT, which is firmly rooted inter alia in Clauses 4, 7, 10, 12, 13 and 15 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, and lays down clear rules that would provide abundant clarity to greatly resolve these difficulties.

A 60 day limit has been fixed for responding to an application and has also capped the one-time administrative fee leviable at the reasonable level of Rs 1,000 per km of RoW or Rs 10,000 per tower application.

Moreover, the concerned authority must not take more than 60 days from the date of application to either grant permission or deny it. It cannot reject an application without first hearing the company. Rejection can only be clearly quoting reasons. In case of dispute, the decision would be by such Officer as appointed by the Central Government. If the authority fails to give a response within 60 days, the permission will be deemed as granted.

This single measure will have a significant and measurable net positive impact on Broadband penetration and will help accelerate the vision of achieving “Broadband for all.”

Much of the call drop difficulties were due to the inability to get the adequate number of correctly-located towers due to lack of proper rules to guide the competent state and local authorities. Mobile users could look forward to soon seeing a significant reduction in the call drop problem as well due to increase in number of mobile towers and cell sites leading to better signal coverage.

The facilitation of optic fiber connectivity through the underground infrastructure rules will enable coping with the current data explosion. It will also lay the foundation for the exponential growth of 4G and Internet of Things (IoT) as well as make possible, the entry of 5G services earlier than expected.

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