Telecom regulator TRAI has begun a pilot project at Deoghar in Jharkhand to showcase a common duct that can hold fibres and cables from multiple service providers, eliminating the need for digging up of roads. The regulator, which has initiated the groundwork for a common duct policy, said that it will give its views to the government upon completion of the project.
“We have initiated a common duct policy…We are going to do a proof of concept of this in Jharkhand,” TRAI chairman RS Sharma said at a CII event here. He said that the concept of common shared infrastructure had dispelled the myth that each service provider must individually own the entire backbone.
“Because of the tower sharing policy that myth has been broken. You (the service provider) can compete at the front end and yet not compete at the back-end infrastructure level. There can be collaboration at the back-end and hence common shared infrastructure assumes importance,” he said.
Sharma said that the cable, telecom and utility service providers digging up land for laying fibre, was a persistent issue. “We are talking about a common duct in which every entity who wants to pull their cable – at least fibre and power – can do so…Once you put a duct, for next 20-25 years the same duct can be used for cable or telecom. It will even allow the municipality to earn revenue,” he said.
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Telecommunications Consultants India (TCIL) is doing the consultancy for the project. The Expression of Interest has come out and Request for Proposal is due soon, Sharma said.
“A common duct will be created for 20 years. Once the duct is made, no service provider will be allowed to dig the road,” he said.
Asked about the timeframe for completion of the project, Sharma said that the bidding process will take a month, and thereafter the work on the duct could take up to six months.
“At the end of the exercise, we should be able to come to a conclusion on whether such a proposal is replicable in other larger and smaller cities. Based on experience in Jharkhand, we should be able to give our proposal to the government,” Sharma pointed out.
On Jio’s complaint that incumbent operators are allegedly using “unfair” means to retain customers by lining up customised retention offers, Sharma declined to comment.
“I don’t comment on individual complaints. Any complaint that comes from any service provider, I can assure you that TRAI examines them, and we take a call,” he said.
He rued that India was lagging behind in broadband and connectivity, when, in fact, it was leading the world in areas like software and BPO.
“On one side, we have done well in software and BPO but the infrastructure on which the products will work, is not as robust,” he pointed out.