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As India gears up for 5G rollout, telecoms minister says right of way approval will be granted by December

Telecommunications minister says legal support for RoW by December

New Delhi:

Telecommunications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Saturday that legal support for the right of way (RoW) would be in place by December and launched the GatiShakti Sanchar portal which will centralise and expedite approvals for laying fibre and tower installations as the country Rolling out for 5G.

The GatiShakti Sanchar portal will facilitate centralized Right of Way (RoW) approvals.

The GatiShakti Sanchar Portal is the industry’s online platform to apply for RoW when building telecommunications infrastructure, 5G services, and it provides a unified, integrated, centralized approach that covers all states and UTs as well as central government ministries.

For players, it promises to reduce the number of days involved in obtaining prescribed licenses, reduce costs and facilitate doing business.

When launching the portal, Vaishnaw asserted the need for legal provisions for “right of way” and pledged to have strong legal backing in place by December this year. He explained that currently, RoW rules are based on administrative procedures and require strong legal backing to empower local officials, clarify fee structures and establish accountability.

“This will be our next step. Also, all the gateways there, especially the Gati Shakti gateway, the railway gateway, the highway gateway, etc… Integrating these… We will work on both technical and legal aspects” Vashnau Say.

Work has already started on these two fronts, the integration of the portal is to take place within the next 3-4 months, and the timeline for providing legal support is the end of December.

Asked if the RoW’s legal provisions would also lead to penalties if the timeline was not met, the minister said that, in general, accountability and penalties were often linked.

“…otherwise, that’s considered approval,” he said.

The new GatiShakti Sanchar portal is to significantly simplify the RoW approval process for players to lay out infrastructure and provide a centralized and unified approach to permissions.

In addition, the integration of the portal with GIS will provide state and various agencies with greater visibility into existing fiber optic and digital networks. Vaishnaw praised the state government’s proactive role in streamlining the process, saying the approval time for the RoW has been reduced from 100 days to 22 days.

Once the technical and legal aspects are done, the 22-day cycle could be further shortened to even a week, moving on.

The minister said the portal will be an enabler to achieve the goal of “doing business with ease” in the telecommunications infrastructure. The minister said the timely processing of RoW applications from various service and infrastructure providers will enable the rapid creation of networks to facilitate the timely rollout of 5G.

The portal will enable applicants (telecommunications operators and infrastructure providers) to apply to state and local agencies for right of way (for laying fibre optic cables and installing mobile towers) at a common site.

To effectively monitor RoW applications across the country, the portal is equipped with a dashboard showing state and territory wise application pending status.

By simplifying the RoW approval process, the portal will facilitate the laying of fiber optic cables, speed up fiberization, and increase the density of connection towers, ensuring better broadband speeds and quality of service in general.

This portal is developed by MP State Electronics Development Corporation.

Industry body COAI applauded the initiative, saying that through the portal, telecom service providers and infrastructure providers will be able to submit their applications and authorities will be able to process and promptly permits to deploy digital network infrastructure.

The vision of the portal is to provide a collaborative institutional mechanism between all stakeholders central and state governments, central landownership authorities (rail, defence, ports, etc.), local agencies and service providers to facilitate RoW applications and permits to deploy digital infrastructure in the country.

Calling the new portal a “milestone”, General of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), SP Kochhar, will realize the vision of a “Digital India”.

Currently, there are delays in the application process for digital infrastructure installations due to inconsistencies and uncertainty in the policies and processes adopted at all levels. Therefore, a fast-track application process is needed to overcome the challenges of implementing the 2016 right-of-way rules.

TR Dua, General of the Digital Infrastructure Providers Association (DIPA) said: “The launch of this portal is a game-changer and another milestone for the telecommunications industry, allowing for a faster nationwide rollout of digital infrastructure and reducing early Delay”.

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