In another attempt to speed up mobile services rollout across a vast country, an effort made even more urgent given the imminent arrival of 5G, India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has again amended the rules concerning right of way (RoW).
Given the likelihood that 5G will require many more small cells and much more use of street furniture, RoW application procedures for small cells have been simplified. Telecom licensees will be able to use street infrastructure to deploy telecom equipment at a specified cost: Rs150 (US$1.88) per year in rural areas and Rs300 (US$3.76) per year in urban areas.
There will also be a nominal cost of Rs100 per year (US$1.25) to install overground optical fibre on street furniture. However, operators do not require government approval for an agreement with private property owners for installation of telecoms infrastructure. Administrative fees have also been rationalised.
In addition the IT systems of all states or union territories and major infrastructure ministries such as railways and highways have been integrated with the central RoW portal to make India ready for 5G launch.
Called Sugam Sanchar, the centralised RoW portal offers a single interface for ISPs, mobile operators and infrastructure providers to apply for right of way (RoW) approvals for installing infrastructure
These ongoing improvements have apparently already resulted in a reduction in average time for approval of RoW applications, from 435 days in 2019 to 16 days in July, 2022 according to the telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.
Welcoming the changes, SP Kochhar, director general of the operator-led group COAI, was quoted by India’s Economic Times as saying: "Access to the existing infrastructure, deployment of new infrastructure, and the high cost involved in it were major challenges the telecom sector always came across which will now be eased down with new RoW rules,"
This does seem like a major achievement on the part of the DoT, especially when one considers that in early 2020 many states were simply ignoring RoW rules.