Minister of IT, India Ashwini Vaishnaw said that legal backing for the right of way (RoW) for telecom infrastructure projects will be put in place by December this year, as he launched the GatiShakti Sanchar portal that aims to accelerate approvals for laying of fibre and tower installations, ahead of the 5G roll-out in the country.
The GatiShakti Sanchar portal will enable centralised right of way (RoW) approvals for telecom infrastructure projects and can be used by industry players to apply for RoW approvals, including for 5G services.
The portal has been adopted by all central ministries, state governments and union territories, the Telecom Minister said.
He added that the current process for RoW approvals is handled administratively and giving it legal backing would help officials at the local levels to approve RoW requests quicker, bring clarity to the fee structure and fix accountability.
Vaishnaw also said that the portal has already brought down the time taken for such approvals from nearly 100 days to around 22, and legal backing would further bring that time down to close to a week.
“The timely disposal of RoW applications of various service and infrastructure providers shall enable speedy infrastructure creation which would be an enabler for the timely rollout of 5G networks. The integration of the portal with the Geographic Information System (GIS) will also give state governments and various agencies added visibility into the optical fibre mesh and digital networks that are in place,” Vaishnaw said.
The launch of the portal comes in line with the draft policy guidelines to bring consistency in RoW-related procedures across states that were released in April, according to reports.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT), in the draft, has proposed a methodology for calculating RoW area, the establishment of poles for the deployment of small cells, and usage of street furniture for the deployment of small cells, among other things.
“The Centre also plans to link various other portals handled by railways, highways, and waterways, among others to the GatiShakti Sanchar portal, “Work has already started on interlinking these portals and it should be completed in the next 3-4 months,” Vaishnaw said.
The portal, built by the Madhya Pradesh State Electronics Development Corporation, includes a dashboard for tracking applications and has already received more than 50,000 RoW applications, out of which around 28,000 have been approved.
“The GatiShakti Sanchar portal is an important step towards making a robust mechanism to achieve the goal of ‘Broadband for All’, as envisaged in the National Digital Communication Policy, 2018,” said SP Kochhar, Director-General, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).
The vision for this portal is to provide a collaborative institutional mechanism between all stakeholders including Central and State/UT Government(s), central land-owning authorities (Railways, Defence, Porta etc), Local bodies, and Service Providers to facilitate the Right of Way (ROW) applications and permissions for the deployment of the Digital Infrastructure- mobile towers and OFC- in the country. The COAl lauded the efforts for the development of this portal
The report further added that for the enhancement of digital services and the forthcoming roll-out of 5G services in India, the country requires the densification of mobile networks.
Facilitation of development of the national digital infrastructure is one of the key areas of focus for the DoT for is struggling with the basics when it comes to Right of Way (RoW). This will help the States/UTs/Central Agencies that have not developed their own Portal to use the Gati Shakti Sanchar portal for processing the applications filed by TSPs/IPs for the deployment of Digital Infrastructure.
Appreciating the efforts, Lt. Gen. Dr. SP Kochhar, Director General, COAl, said,” The launch of Gati Shakti – Sugam Sanchar Portal is a milestone which will enable the Government’s vision for ‘Digital India’. It provides a platform to process for both the Authorities and Industry to apply for ROW approvals for laying Optical Fibre Cables (OFC) and erecting mobile towers, and small cells on street furniture etc. to submit their applications to various agencies of the State/UT Governments and local bodies. It is an important step towards making a robust mechanism to achieve the goal of “Broadband to All” as envisaged in the National Digital Communication Policy-2018″. Currently, the application process for the installation of Digital Infrastructure gets delayed due to inconsistency and uncertainty of policy and processes adopted at various levels.
Thus, it requires maintaining a fast-tracking application process to overcome the challenges of implementation of Right of Way Rules-2016. This portal will bring transparency, accountability, and responsiveness to all stakeholders.