India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has reportedly expressed concerns regarding applications for submarine cable landing station authorisations from several telcos, the Hindu writes. According to the paper, the DoT noted that some of the applicants – Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio), Bharti Airtel, and Sify Technologies – are not stakeholders in the cable systems that they land. Jio has applied for authorisations to land the India Asia Xpress and India Europe Xpress cables (Jio holds a significant stake in both systems); Airtel has sought permission to land the 2Africa and SeaMeWe-6 cables (Bharti Airtel is understood to have no stake in 2Africa, but is part of the SeaMeWe-6 consortium); and Sify has submitted an application to land the Raman cable, but is understood to not have a stake in the system.
Under the current regulations, companies deploying international submarine cables must ensure that they – or a member of the consortium – hold a valid international long distance (ILD) licence from the DoT. A further direction from the DoT notes: ‘ILD licensees … while applying for security clearances on behalf of any entity for laying/maintaining the submarine cables, shall make sure that they have significant stake in such entities on behalf of whom they are applying for security clearances.’ The matter has been referred to sector watchdog the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The licensing framework for landing submarine cables in India is currently under consultation: the TRAI published a consultation paper in December 2022 and earlier this month it extended the deadline for comments and counter-comments to 10 February and 24 February, respectively.