The norms requiring telecom firms to acquire import licence for radio frequency equipment such as antennas and base station should be abolished as they hurt network rollout plans, cellular industry body COAI has said. In a submission to the telecom regulator on ‘ease of doing telecom business in India’, COAI has also said that the Trai Act should be “revisited”.
It further said that a single window clearance process should be established for the satellite spectrum assignment covering clearances from different agencies like ISRO and WPC (that is, Communications Ministry’s Wireless Planning and Coordination wing). On acquiring import licences, COAI said: “Without the same, customs department does not clear the entry of RF equipment into the country.
“This requirement is a major bottleneck, as getting a clearance takes up to 1-2 months, and during this time, the RF equipment are withheld by the customs.” Moreover, seeking import licences for every service area separately becomes cumbersome. “Due to this requirement, licensees having pan India presence cannot import RF equipment in large quantities and deploy the same in the different licensed areas.”
The association has suggested that the telecom department should seek periodic reports from operators rather than requiring them to seek a separate licence for all RF equipment. “Hence, we are of the view that import licence for RF equipment should be abolished,” said the industry body whose members include incumbent operators such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular as also newcomer Reliance Jio.
COAI has also highlighted the need for doing away with multiple audits citing the statutory quarterly and annual audits already undertaken by the operators. “We believe that these audits are sufficient and there should not be duplication of efforts by multiple audits in a given financial year,” it said.
Noting that the telcos currently provide data in various formats to the telecom department at different points, COAI has stressed on the need for having a portal for online reporting of data by the telecom service providers. It also said the telecom regulatory regime needs to be reworked to “iron out the creases”, and has pitched for a simple structure and an inbuilt roadmap with timelines to ensure the ease of doing business.
“The TRAI Act needs to be revisited and brought in line with other forward-looking enactments to suit the dynamics of the fast-changing telecom sector,” COAI said, adding that this would reduce the scope for disputes and ensure greater certainty for businesses. COAI has also batted for introduction of an electronic bill or mobile bills as a default option for postpaid services, replacing the hard copy. This, according to COAI, will boost the country’s digitisation efforts.