New Delhi 21 November, 2016 Right of Way guidelines shall help boost both Fixed and Mobile Broadband penetration across the country. Broadband India Forum (BIF) welcomes this trail-blazing initiative by DOT, under the powers vested in it by The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, to propose one set of new, comprehensive, clear, uniform and transparent Indian Telegraph Right of Way Rules, 2016 across the entire country to help simplify, streamline and speed up the entire process of ROW approvals, both for underground (optic fibre, cable et) and overground (towers and other outside equipment) infrastructure.
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.1000/- per km of RoW or Rs.10,000/- per tower application. In the event of dispute between the competent authority and the licensee, a dispute resolution mechanism, involving the Central Govt, has been specified, in accordance with the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885.
Moreover, the GN( Gazette Notofication ) stipulates that 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.
The above-mentioned clear process would itself lead to expeditious roll-out of telecom infrastructure.
BIF believes that this Government Notification, would, in one powerful stroke, pave the way for rapid and cost-effective development of telecom infrastructure which will help boost access to Telecom services and penetration of affordable broadband throughout the country. This single measure will have a significant & measurable net positive impact on Broadband penetration and will help accelerate the vision of achieving ” Broadband for all ” and the Hon’ble PM’s vision of Digital India.
Much of the call drop difficulties have been 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. This need has now been addressed by the Govt through this latest initiative. 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. This is likely to be of great assistance to the industry to improve the Quality of Service issues and the overall customer experience.
India is awfully deficient as regards fibre in the ground as compared to China, US, Europe etc. The facilitation of optic fibre connectivity through the underground infrastructure rules will not only enable coping with the current data explosion but, most importantly, will also lay the foundation for the exponential growth of 4G and Internet of Things as well as make possible, the entry of 5G services earlier than expected.
This single decision could well provide a big boost to all the infrastructure projects viz. Bharat Net/Public Wifi etc which are meant for boosting the broadband penetration across the country.
As aptly summarised by Mr. T.V. Ramachandran -President of BIF “India now has its best chance to urgently upgrade its broadband infrastructure if we are to bridge the urban-rural divide and move expeditiously towards achieving Broadband for All and Digital India .”