The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has announced new amendments to the Indian Telegraph Right of Way (RoW) Rules, 2016, and introduced the Indian Telegraph Right of Way (Amendment) Rules, 2023.

As part of the amendments, DoT has inserted an additional rule, namely, “Establishment of temporary overground telegraph infrastructure” in the RoW Rules, 2016. As per the rule, in case of damage to any existing underground telegraph infrastructure for any reason, the licensee, whose existing underground telegraph infrastructure is damaged, may temporarily establish the overground telegraph infrastructure, in lieu of the damaged underground telegraph infrastructure, to restore the telegraph service for the period of 60 days from the date of reporting of damage of the infrastructure to the appropriate authority. No fee or compensation shall be charged by the appropriate authority for the establishment of temporary overground telegraph infrastructure under this rule.

Under the amendment, the term “street furniture” has also been defined, encompassing post or pole used for electricity, street light, traffic light, traffic sign, bus stop, tram stop, taxi stand, public lavatory, memorial, public sculpture, utility pole or any other structure or contrivance of such nature established over the property of an appropriate authority.

Further, as per the amendments, licensees have the option of submitting a single application for multiple sites and appropriate authority shall make due provisions for accepting such applications and issuing single permission for multiple sites accordingly for the establishment of small cells. The appropriate central authorities should permit the deployment of small cells and charge no administrative fees or compensation for it on buildings and structures vested in or under their control. Charges will be applicable for power (as per industry tariffs), fixtures etc. provided by building owners and the licensee will have to restore the damage done during the deployment of small cells. 

Moreover, through the amendments, DoT has revised the schedule for fees, charges and compensation for different activities.

Industry reactions:

Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has lauded the DoT for introducing the “The Indian Telegraph Right of Way (Amendment) Rules, 2023” as being progressive and forward-looking, with a clear focus towards enhancing the 5G ecosystem and expansive digital connectivity for all citizens across India. According to COAI, these amendments are in continuation to the earlier amendments made in 2017, 2021 and 2022, for further facilitation of rolling out robust telecom infrastructure in the country. The amendments add to the many steps initiated by the government to facilitate ease of doing business in the sector and will support the industry in further enhancing and maintaining the networks in a much speedier manner.  

Commenting on the amendments, Lt. Gen. Dr. SP Kochhar, Director General, COAI said, “We welcome the move by DoT to introduce the new amended RoW rules which is a positive step forward for the industry and will contribute to the faster deployment of 5G services in the country. These forthcoming changes will provide significant advantages to the telecom industry and the digital connectivity provision for the nation. It will enable rapid network reinstatement in the event of underground telecom infrastructure damage, expedite 5G rollout by utilising the state’s existing infrastructure, simplify application procedures for multiple small cell sites and allocate central government areas for small cell deployment at no cost. We believe these measures will collectively enhance ease of doing business within the sector, while aiding in expansive network deployments for ubiquitous connectivity across the country. However, the real benefits of these measures would depend upon their effective implementation by local authorities in letter and spirit. The industry looks forward to working with state governments and different agencies to bring these changes on the ground and speed up as well as smoothen the network deployments.”