Sunday May 15, 2022

The government will provide legal backing for right of way (RoW) by December to facilitate laying of optical fibre, said communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Saturday while launching the GatiShakti Sanchar portal that will centralise and speed up approvals for laying optical fibre and installations of mobile towers.

“That will be our next step. We will also be working on integration of all portals, especially GatiShakti, railway, highway and others,” he said.

As the country gears up to launch 5G commercial services, fiberisation of mobile towers is necessary. At present, just around 35% towers are connected with fibre, and companies have often highlighted the problems faced by them in getting approvals for RoW. Currently, RoW rules are based on administrative process, and a strong legal backing is required to empower local officials, bring clarity on the fee structure and fix accountability, the minister said. The industry can apply for RoW approvals on the portal as they build telecom infrastructure, including for 5G services.

The portal offers a unified, integrated, centralised approach covering all states and UTs, and central government ministries. For players, it promises to reduce the days involved in getting stipulated permissions, lower costs, and facilitate ease of doing business. The new GatiShakti Sanchar portal is expected to significantly ease the process of RoW approvals for laying down of infrastructure by players, and offers a centralised and unified approach to permissions.

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Further, the integration of the portal with GIS will give state government and various agencies more visibility into the optical fibre mesh and digital networks that are in place. The RoW approval time has already come down from 100 days to 22 days, Vaishnaw said, lauding the state governments for their proactive role in streamlining processes.

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The portal has been developed by MP State Electronics Development Corporation. Industry body COAI lauded the initiative, saying telecom service providers and infrastructure providers will be able to submit their applications and the authorities will be able to process and give timely permissions for the deployment of digital network infrastructure with the portal. Digital Infrastructure Providers Association (DIPA) director-general TR Dua said, “The launch of this portal is a game-changer and another milestone for the telecom industry, with faster rollout of digital infrastructure across the nation and cutting down the earlier delays.”


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