It’s been a while since we last reported on the Right of Way regulations for telecommunications infrastructure rollout in India, and the problems the Department of Telecom (DoT) has had enforcing them. However, little seems to have changed in recent months.
According to news reports in India, industry body the Towers and Infrastructure Providers Association (Taipa) has indicated that fewer than half of India’s states or union territories are following the RoW (Right of Way) rules, laid down in 2016.
Thus, four years after the rules on the rolling out in India of telecommunications infrastructure such as towers and fibre cable first came in, in many states their observance is being delayed or undermined. Out of the 37 states or union territories, only 16 have broadly aligned their policy with the 2016 rulings.
The RoW rules provide for a framework to give approvals for setting up of towers and laying of fibre cables and for settling disputes in a timely manner. The rules also aim to improve coordination between companies and the authorities and local bodies linked to the various state governments.
This hasn’t stopped some states from developing their own, somewhat contradictory policies, in some cases adding to the restrictions on placement of infrastructure and insisting on much higher fees to be paid to the state government for permission.
Karnataka in particular is singled out for comment by Taipa. Last May, the DoT asked the Karnataka government to align its state infrastructure roll-out policy with the RoW rules. This followed news of cutting of cables laid overground by the local municipal body in Bengaluru, which seemed to be insisting that telecommunications cables be laid underground and a fee paid before that happened.
While government and industry bodies have pointed out that such divergence on infrastructure rollout rules will hit connectivity and development, so far it doesn’t seem to have made much difference. If, as Taipa has said, India still needs to roll out more than 100,000 towers to serve an active subscriber base of more than a billion consumers, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen soon.