The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released its recommendations on broadening the scope of telecom infrastructure providers.

As per TRAI’s recommendations, tower service providers should be allowed to engage in partial active infrastructure sharing, limited to radio access network (RAN) gear only and not licensed spectrum resources.

Further, multi-operator radio access network (MORAN) sharing, which is a form of RAN sharing, should be permitted under the proposed enhancement of scope of infrastructure providers Category-I registration, wherein, only RAN equipment is shared but not spectrum,  TRAI said.

As per the sector regulator, RAN sharing is a form of active-sharing but the IP-I registration holder should not be eligible to apply for assignment of any kind of licensed spectrum.

TRAI added that the expanded scope of telecom infrastructure providers should not include use of licensed spectrum assigned to an eligible telco for provisioning of wireless services.

TRAI has recommended that tower service providers, under their expanded scope of operations, should be allowed to own, establish, maintain and work on infrastructure items, equipment, and systems required for setting up wireline networks, RAN, and transmission links. However, it added that tower firms cannot own or set up core network elements such as switches, mobile switching centres (MSCs), home location registers (HLR), intelligent networks.

As per TRAI, tower firms must not be allowed to provision end-to-end bandwidth using transmission systems to customers other than telcos. Further, tower firms be barred from providing any non-telco customers access to telecom infrastructure equipment/systems.

Moreover, TRAI stated that tower infrastructure providers use equipment adhering to standards mandated by Telecom Engineering Centre – the technical wing of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). In absence of TEC standards, they should use gear that comply with requirements specified by global telecom agencies such as the International Telecom Organisation (ITU), European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), IEEE and International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).

The recommendations have been released after the TRAI floated a consultation paper seeking stakeholders’ comments in August 2019 on whether the scope of tower infrastructure providers should be widened to include provisioning of common or sharable active infrastructure.