India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked all states and union territories in the country to quickly provide permissions and clearances to network engineers working with telecom operators, tower companies and internet service providers to ensure seamless mobile and broadband connectivity as more states go under lockdown due to the new wave of Covid-19.
The DoT secretary Anshu Prakash, in his letters to all state chief secretaries, said that telecommunications is an essential service and all personnel engaged in providing and maintaining mobile, internet and telecom infrastructure services should be issued the necessary permissions and passes, including travel.
Prakash said that permission must be given even in the “eventuality of lockdowns and restrictions on movement imposed by states and UTs.”
“The DoT trusts that all states and UTs will extend assistance and facilitation to enable uninterrupted services/operations of telephone exchanges, mobile switching centers, network operation centers, data centers, call centres and warehouses where maintenance spares are stored,” the secretary said in his letter.
As per media reports, telecom operators have been facing challenges in securing the necessary approvals for movement of their field engineers amid the latest lockdowns.
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and the Tower & Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA) recently requested the telecom secretary to provide support with regard to the availability and continuity of telecom connectivity on 24/7 basis during the curfew and lockdown across the country.
The COAI represents Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea, while TAIPA represents tower infrastructure companies such as Indus Towers, ATC, Summit Digitel, Ascend and Tower Vision.
TAIPA had asked Prakash to advise the relevant Central Ministries authorities and the state governments to provide support to telecom infrastructure companies for carrying out uninterrupted installation and maintenance of telecom infrastructure.
“As the telecom services are pivotal for enabling several e-service, online applications, and work from home etc therefore it becomes utmost important to ensure the continuity of telecom tower operations 24/7 during curfew and lockdown situations in the country,” T.R.Dua, Director-General, TAIPA said in a statement.
Telcos and infrastructure companies had sought immediate availability of diesel for running diesel generator sets in case of emergency. Through COAI and TAIPA, these companies urged the DoT to write to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and other oil companies such as BPCL, HPCL, Indian Oil to ensure round the clock availability of diesel for telecom tower operations.
Additionally, they asked the DoT to write to the Ministry of Power and state governments for advising all Electricity Distribution Companies regarding uninterrupted electricity availability for telecom tower site operations.
Prakash acknowledged requests from telcos and telecom infrastructure companies in his letters to state governments. “We have received references from the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and the Tower & Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), requesting us to take up with states and UTs to recognise telecom as an essential service and provide the necessary assistance to enable uninterrupted services,” he said.
Telecom companies also sought “frontline healthcare worker status” for their field staff and engineers and approached the telecom department for their priority vaccination.