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New RoW Norms by DoT for Rollout of Networks

The authorities involved in granting permits to companies wanting to gain RoW access, will have to do so within 60 days of the application, failing which the approval “shall be deemed to have been granted”.

November 20, 2016

With an aim to resolve a long-pending issue being faced by the telecom industry, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has issued Right of Way (RoW) rules for rollout of communication networks to facilitate the installation of mobile towers, optic fibre and copper cables in a time-bound, non-discretionary manner.

This is one of the biggest announcements of the year for the telecom infrastructure sector as it will directly enable cable/tower and telcos to realize the Digital India, Smart Cities, BharatNet targets. This will also answer the call drop issue and bring in smoother transition to 4G networks.

The old RoW policy was earlier leading to delays in permissions and cost escalations. With this new policy in place, the broadband highways through optical fibre networks will be created within the targeted timelines.

Speaking on the new norms, Dr. Anand Agarwal, CEO, Sterlite Technologies said, “The much awaited 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. We believe the policy will not only streamline the permission procedure but also enable us in timely deployment of smarter optical fibre networks in a transparent manner. These broadband highways will connect rural India (through BharatNet) to urban (Smart Cities) regions, becoming a strong foundation to realize the Digital India targets.”

According to the government notification, the authorities involved in granting permits to companies wanting to gain RoW access, will have to do so within 60 days of the application, failing which the approval “shall be deemed to have been granted”.

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

Apart from the concern around delay in approvals for RoW permits, one of the other major issues flagged by telecom companies was the fees charged by local bodies for these permissions. In some cases, the charges have been as high as Rs 7 crore per kilometre for laying underground cables.

To keep a check on these levies by various agencies on network rollout, authorities have been barred from imposing any fee, charge, lease rental, licence fee other than the expense that they would incur as consequence of the proposed work. Every application under the rule “shall be accompanied with such fee to meet administrative expenses for examination of the application and the proposed work as the appropriate authority may, by general order, deem fit”, the notification said. Such fee to meet administrative expenses “shall not exceed one thousand rupees per kilometre”, it added.

However, the government has made provisions that local agencies may impose cost of restoring damage to any infrastructure as a result of laying cable.

Hailing this new RoW policy a progressive step, Mr. Agarwal added, “With India surpassing the United States to become the second largest internet market riding on demand from high-internet consuming applications and booming population, the need for high-speed broadband infrastructure riding on smarter networks has become critical. The RoW policy is a progressive step towards bringing India on par to global infrastructure standards, boosting internet economy of the country and will act as critical component to predictable delivery of 25-year Sterlite Tech Smarter Networks.”

 

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