Cellular operators’ body COAI has said that new rules on installation of mobile towers and laying of optical cables will reduce call drops, rev up broadband speeds and improve service quality for consumers. “The rules will enable operators to improve coverage and capacity and address the issue of call drops, ultimately benefiting consumers. It will allow telecom companies to provide broadband at better speeds as the rules provides clear direction to State and local bodies on laying down of fibre cables,” COAI Director General, Rajan Mathews said.
Overall, he said, the newly-notified Right of Way or RoW rules by Telecom Department will improve customer’s experience of telecom services. “The rules are comprehensive, and will address critical issues faced by industry in installation of cell towers and deploying fibre in various States. DoT, by notifying these rules under Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, has asserted the Centre’s right to giving instructions to local authorities and municipalities to ensure time-bound rollout of telecom network,” Mathews said.
Operators have often blamed local authorities for creating unnecessary hurdles in deployment of infrastructure, especially in granting permissions, thereby delaying network rollouts. Telcos also complained to have shelled out abnormally high prices for RoW and face different levies. At times, charges have been as high as Rs 7 crore per kilometre for laying underground cables.
According to DOT’s notification late last week, the authorities involved in granting RoW permit will now have to grant such permission within 60 days of application. While rejecting an application, they will have to record reasons in writing. If the authority concerned does not reply within 60 days of application submission by telecom operator, the approval “shall be deemed to have been granted”, as per the new rules.
To check arbitrary fee levied by various agencies on network rollout, authorities have been barred from imposing any fee, charge, lease rental, licence fee other than the expense, they would incur as consequence of proposed work, including cost of restoring damage to road or other infrastructure. 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”, DoT has said.
Such fee to meet administrative expenses cannot exceed Rs 1,000 per kilometer, it said. “DoT has prescribed reasonable rates, and specified time-bound authorisation. Hopefully, the States and local authorities will follow them in letter and spirit,” Mathews said.