India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has ordered its officers and urged state IT secretaries to expedite right-of-way (RoW) approvals for quick rollout of broadband across the country – and that any delay could become a major impediment in growth of communication services, to include planned 5G rollouts in the near future.
During a meeting with State IT Secretaries and DoT officers from the head office and field units, DoT secretary K Rajaraman said that it would not be possible for telecom and Infrastructure companies to quickly lay optical fiber cables and install new towers across the country, it was unless the state governments and local bodies provide necessary RoW approvals promptly.
“There is a direct correlation between low broadband penetration and non-alignment of RoW rules in the same State/LSA. The problem could be exacerbated in light of planned 5G rollouts in the near future,” he said.
Rajaraman directed all DoT field units to conduct monthly meetings with Indian telecom service providers to review application approval process and pendency, and also pursue the same with the state/municipal authorities.
“Secretaries and Heads of Department of State Governments were also requested to facilitate speedy disposal of RoW applications in their respective States. State Broadband Committees were also requested for their intervention for alignment of the state policy with Central RoW Rule-2016,” said an official statement.
Separately, Indian telecom operators said that the monthly meetings would be helpful to expedite RoW permissions and realize their rollout targets set under the National Broadband Mission.
“This is a very positive move towards making India digitally more advanced,” said Lt. Gen. Dr. S P Kochhar, Director-General of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea along with multinational and domestic telecom gear makers.
T.R. Dua, Director-General of the Digital Infrastructure Providers Association (DIPA) – which represents telecom tower infrastructure companies in India – also praised the move.
The DoT said in a statement it will review the status of grant of such approvals regularly with COAI, DIPA and other industry bodies.
“Department of Telecom has taken various initiatives for ease of doing business and to increase the penetration of Broadband Internet to ease the lives of citizens by coming out with new policies like National Digital Communication Policy (NDCP) and implementation of the National Broadband Mission which is expected to catapult India to the next phase of Digital revolution thereby enabling inclusive participation of all citizens to create a truly digital society,” the statement said.