Local governments in fewer than half of India’s 36 states and Union Territories have aligned with the Right of Way (RoW) rules issued by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in 2016, the Economic Times writes, citing industry group the Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA). According to the group just 16 states have aligned their policies with the RoW rules, potentially jeopardising the rollout of critical tower and fibre infrastructure, with TAIPA noting that around 100,000 more towers are needed to ‘provide quality services and cater for an active subscriber base of more than a billion consumers’. As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the RoW rules provide a standardised framework for licensees to apply for permission from local authorities for the installation of infrastructure, with a view to simplifying and streamlining the process. However, the rules have not been widely adopted at a state level according to TAIPA. Highlighting the problem, TAIPA pointed out that the Karnataka government has introduced its own telecom infrastructure policy that is completely misaligned with the DoT’s RoW policy, featuring fees up to ten times higher than those set out by the telecom ministry and excluding any stipulations regarding the timeframe for an application to be processed.
In a more positive development, meanwhile, the DoT has amended the terms of unified access service licences to allow for the deferment of spectrum payments due in the in financial years ending March 2021 and March 2022. The government had greenlit the two-year moratorium on spectrum payments in November last year to ease the current financial burden on telcos and allow providers to recover from a bruising three-year price war.