Infrastructure News

Trai backs new permit to boost network infra to improve coverage, ET Infra

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KOLKATA: The telecom regulator has recommended a new licence category within the unified licence regime to boost creation of active/passive digital connectivity infrastructure with an aim to cut network infrastructure rollout costs and improve the quality of mobile broadband coverage in congested zones.

It, though, has called on the government to make necessary provisions to ensure such digital connectivity infrastructure provider (DCIP) permit-holders can buy radio equipment, but without any assignment of spectrum.

The sector regulator has also suggested that the proposed DCIP permit must not attract any licence fee. Instead, it has recommended an entry fee of Rs 2 lakh and an application processing fee of Rs 15,000.

“National Digital Communications Policy–2018 has put much emphasis on digital infrastructure and services increasingly emerging as key enablers and critical determinants of a country’s growth and well-being, and it’s imperative that new players are encouraged and promoted through conducive a licensing framework for creation of active and passive infrastructure over which any digital service can ride,” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said in its 70-page set of recommendations issued Tuesday.

It believes the presence of neutral third-party entities, capable of creating passive as well as some network layer active infrastructure can help in increased sharing, bring down overall infrastructure costs and strengthen services delivery.

The regulator added that since 5G requires massive additions of above and below ground infrastructure in the passive and active categories, there will be a need to create common sharable digital infrastructure, particularly in densely populated urban areas to deliver strong coverage.

Active telecom infrastructure, typically, comprises network electronics such as antennae, feeder cables, transmission systems while mobile towers represent passive telecom infrastructure.

Trai has also suggested that the DCIP permit not be a standalone one but an authorisation within the ambit of a unified licence. It has also recommended that a separate light-touch licence authorisation (under UL) be created for DCIPs.

Among other key recommendations, it has suggested that DCIP licence-holders not be mandated to furnish performance bank guarantees (PBGs). Further, it has urged the government to make an amendment in the unified licence to ensure that whenever a UL licensee (read: hirer of service) uses the services of a DCIP permit-holder, their commercial pacts should have stringent terms obligating the DCIPs to ensure license conditions applicable to the `hirer’ around operations and network security are not breached.

Trai said that globally, countries are establishing best practices for formulating regulations and administrative processes in the context of digital connectivity infrastructure development. For instance, in the European Commission, it said, a broadband network has been split into three layers — passive infrastructure, active equipment technology and delivery of services – which depend on each other.

The regulator has also suggested a clause that bars DCIPs from entering into legally binding contractual pacts conferring `indefeasible right of use’ (IRU) of its DCI resources to specific eligible entity/entities only as that might lead to exclusion of others.

  • Published On Aug 9, 2023 at 07:35 AM IST

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