DoT has brought infrastructure providers in category 1 — mainly comprising mobile tower firms — under licensing for rolling out networks and renting to service providers. In an office memorandum dated May 22, DoT said: “With reference to Indian Telegraph Right of Way (RoW) Rules, 2016…’licensee’ includes infrastructure provider category 1 authorised to establish and maintain assets such as dark fibres, RoW, duct space and tower for the purpose of granting the same on lease/rent/sale basis to licensees of telecom services.” The RoW rules mandate all government bodies to provide permit to companies for rolling out telecom infrastructure in a time-bound manner at rates enough to cover their administrative and infrastructure restoration cost without levying any additional cess or fee.
Category 1 (or IP-1) firms have been facing difficulties in rolling out telecom infrastructure as Department of Telecom (DoT) notification to get permit from government agencies included only licensed telecom service providers like Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone and Idea Cellular. The telecom licence holder obtained permit to meet their infrastructure requirement and handed it over to IP-1 players for execution. On the other hand, IP-1 companies have objected to being included under the definition of licence as they will be required to share 8 per cent revenue with the government from communication services.
The Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), with players such as Bharti Infratel, Indus towers, ATC towers, GTL Infrastructure, Reliance Infratel, and Tower Vision, said it appreciated the DoT decision on inclusion of IP-1 in the RoW rules. “The clarification was long pending and much needed and timely which will expedite the provisioning of telecom infrastructure in every nook and corner of the nation. The clarification will provide impetus, required thrust and augurs extremely positive for upcoming technologies like 5G, AI, IoT…,” TAIPA Director General, Tilak Raj Dua said. He added that decision will add impetus to realising the government’s overarching initiatives such as Digital India and Broadband for All.