The Broadband India Forum (BIF) on Tuesday pushed for open access to all interested companies in the submarine cable systems sector with minimum regulations for quality and reliable international connectivity at affordable costs.
The Delhi-based think tank, which also represents Big Tech companies, has proposed a new regulatory framework with light-touch regulations, in response to a consultation paper on ‘Licensing Framework and Regulatory Mechanism for Submarine Cable Landing in India’ by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).
Submarine cable systems are used for global telecommunications connectivity that use undersea cables to carry telecom signals across geographies globally. Since India’s data traffic is growing at a rapid pace, international submarine cables are critical to facilitate global data connectivity at a time when data growth will multiply with the launch of 5G and the growing number of data centres.
As per the current regulatory regime, the companies holding international long distance (ILD) licences can only lay submarine cables and set up cable landing systems in the country. This results in a scenario where some undersea cable consortium have to rely on one of only a few ILD licence holders in India to own the cable assets in Indian territorial waters and act as the consortium’s landing party.
“It’s quintessential to create a conducive environment for the growth of submarine cable and cable landing stations (CLS) to support requisite infrastructure development to push the Digital India
According to the think tank, in order to promote competition and resultantly improve quality and innovation of services in the sector, the government should open the CLS facilities to attract more participation by private players and foreign investments.
The industry body has asked the telecom regulator to implement a regulatory framework for those who will build and deploy submarine cable systems and CLSs, and another for those who would use the infrastructure to provide the public services. It has also raised concerns about some conditions in the paper that may inadvertently create entry barriers for new entities seeking to build submarine cable infrastructure in India and also discourage long term and sizeable investments in the sector.
India has a total of 17 submarine cables coming from different parts of the world to connect with terrestrial network at the cable landing stations near the coast. Mumbai and Chennai have the maximum concentration of submarine cables.
In December last year, Bharti Airtel
Airtel earlier had joined the SEA-ME-WE-6 undersea cable consortium to build four fibre pairs between Singapore, Chennai and Mumbai. The company will invest 20% of the overall investment in the cable system, which will go live in 2025. Peer Reliance Jio has also been expanding its foothold in the subsea cable infrastructure. The company had invested in a multi-terabit India-Asia-Xpress (IAX) undersea cable system that starts from Mumbai and connects to Singapore, with connectivity across landing stations in India, Malaysia, and Thailand.