CommsUpdate: India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has reportedly expressed concerns regarding applications for submarine cable landing station authorisations from several telcos.
According to the Hindu newspaper, the DoT noted that some of the applicants – Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio), Bharti Airtel, and Sify Technologies – are not stakeholders in the cable systems that they land.
Jio has applied for authorisations to land the India Asia Xpress and India Europe Xpress cables (Jio holds a significant stake in both systems). Airtel has sought permission to land the 2Africa and SeaMeWe-6 cables (Bharti Airtel is understood to have no stake in 2Africa, but is part of the SeaMeWe-6 consortium); and Sify has submitted an application to land the Raman cable, but is understood to not have a stake in the system.
Telcos need ILD licence first
Under the current regulations, companies deploying international submarine cables must ensure that they – or a member of the consortium – hold a valid international long distance (ILD) licence from the DoT.
A further direction from the DoT notes: “ILD licensees … while applying for security clearances on behalf of any entity for laying/maintaining the submarine cables, shall make sure that they have significant stake in such entities on behalf of whom they are applying for security clearances.”
The matter has reportedly been referred to sector watchdog the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
TRAI is on the case
The licensing framework for landing submarine cables in India is currently under consultation, with TRAI publishing a consultation paper in December 2022 that addresses the issue – not only in terms of cable landing station licenses, but also laying or maintaining cables in Indian territorial water or exclusive economic zones.
TRAI is also seeking comments on submarine maintenance activities in and around Indian waters, deployment challenges and ways to overcome them to promote domestic submarine cables, issues related to establishing terrestrial connectivity between differently located CLS and “the benefits and challenges involved in laying stub-cables, a new concept of placing prelaid open-ended dark fibre from the CLS through Beach Manhole (BMH) into the territorial waters for upcoming new cables.”
Earlier this month, TRAI extended the deadline for comments and counter-comments to 10 February and 24 February, respectively.