The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released its recommendations on “Ease of Doing Business in Telecom and Broadcasting Sector”.

Ease of doing business (EoDB) has been identified as one of the focus areas of the government in the recent decade. It is a recognition of the fact that business and enterprise need to be enabled. The government is striving to improve the business environment at every stage across all sectors. As a sector regulator, it is incumbent upon TRAI to improve the business environment in the telecom and broadcasting sector.

To this end, TRAI had issued a consultation paper titled “Ease of Doing Business in Telecom and Broadcasting Sector” in December 2021. Previously, it undertook EoDB consultation mainly specific to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB). However, the current exercise spans across multiple ministries/departments. EoDB requires a comprehensive review of end-to-end processes with a ‘whole of the government’ approach. One application – one window should suffice for all inter-ministerial approvals.

According to TRAI, EoDB is not a one-time activity. It is a continuous process. Therefore, through these recommendations, it proposes the establishment of a standing committee with a focus on EoDB. It remains committed to creating and nurturing conditions for the orderly growth of the two sectors. The recommendations aim to create a process-based approach on EoDB. The regulator envisions that such an ecosystem will pave the way for a periodic review and further reforms. The quick implementation of these recommendations will engender growth of these sectors.

The salient features of these recommendations are as below:

  • A user-friendly, transparent and responsive digital single-window system-based portal should be established. The portal should be enabled with new digital technologies for achieving end-to-end inter-departmental online processes.
  • Each ministry should establish a standing EoDB committee to regularly review, simplify and update the existing processes and ensure ease of doing business as an ongoing activity.
  • MIB, DoT, Department of Space (DoS), Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and other agencies should specify stage-wise timelines for all the processes including initial as well as additional permissions, which should be mentioned in the respective guidelines/policy and updated in the citizen charter.
  • The government may consider and grant infrastructure status to broadcasting and cable services sector.
  • The Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing (WPC) should charge the spectrum royalty fee for temporary uplinking of live events on pro-rata basis for actual number of days of the event.
  • In terms and conditions of the DoT licence agreement for unified licence:
    • The lawful interception monitoring demonstration of a new service in a single network may take place centrally at one licensed service areas (LSA)/location.
    • There should be a module in the single window portal to comply with the end-to-end requirements of rollout obligation process.
    • The process of request for remote access to network from foreign locations, and approval by DoT should be made online and time-bound.
  • For reducing the compliance burden on internet service providers (ISPs):
    • The government may revise the periodicity for submission by the ISPs for providing the details of ISP nodes or points of presence (PoP) with their locations and number of broadband/leased/dial up subscribers to once every year.
    • The website blocking process should be incorporated on the single window portal.
  • For laying and repair of submarine cables:
    • Submarine cable laying and repair in Indian territorial water and exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of India and cable landing stations in India should be classified as ‘critical and sssential services’.
    • Permission for laying, operations and maintenance of submarine cables network should also be made online as a part of SaralSanchar portal.
    • A committee should review the international best practices and feasibility for identifying and declaring special corridor in the Indian marine context.
    • The process of surrender of DoT licence, issuance of no objection certificate (NOC) and release of bank guarantees to the service providers should be made simple, online and time-bound.
  • 100 per cent verification of licence fee (LF) and spectrum usage charge (SUC) should be replaced with sample base deduction verification based on appropriate scientific statistical model. Submission of common application forms (CAFs) by the telecom service providers (TSPs) to the DoT LSAs should be made online. For CAF, DoT may consider reducing sample size in consultation with the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation.
  • Nomenclature of the frequency licensing process of WPC should be modified and termed as ‘frequency assignment’. Accordingly, terms and conditions should be amended. After Standing Advisory Committee on Radio Frequency Allocation (SACFA) clearance and Network Operations Control Center (NOCC) carrier plan approval, a single frequency assignment letter should be issued by WPC. Letter of intent (LoI), decision letter, wireless operating licence (WOL) and uplink permission by NOCC should be eliminated. The frequency assignment letter should be considered as a final permission to commence services.
  • Requirement of additional SACFA clearance for same mobile network site/tower location should be replaced with an intimation on the SaralSanchar portal.
  • The process of getting scrutiny-based equipment type approval (ETA) from WPC should be made online and time-bound. A definite timeline should be prescribed with the provision of deemed approval.
  • DoT should formulate a working group to study and exempt ETA/import licence for devices having wireless sensors emitting very low power below a prescribed level.
  • For the Mandatory Testing and Certification of Telecommunication Equipment (MTCTE) scheme, a committee comprising of two members each from Telecommunication Engineering Center, original equipment manufacturer, service providers and consumers. The members of the committee should be appointed on rotational basis. The committee should revisit the mode of compliance for testing of products and consider modular implementation of product testing.
  • Government should incentivise setting up of labs in India and should do lab assessment before notifying new phases of MTCTE.
  • To avoid duplicity in testing of telecommunications products DoT should constitute a standing committee comprising two senior level officers of joint secretary level each from MeitY, DoT WPC, TEC, Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), and two representatives from product manufacturers. The committee should clearly identify a single testing scheme under which the product needs to be tested.
  • The DoS should publish a list of Indian satellites details and the capacity availability and approved foreign satellites/satellite systems, their orbital locations, transponders and frequency availability and their other technical and security parameters on the single window portal.
  • MeitY in consultation with BIS should define stage-wise timelines for registration under the Compulsory Registration Scheme in respect of product certification.