Vaishnaw says legal backing for RoW by Dec.

Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Saturday unveiled the GatiShakti Sanchar portal that will centralise and speed up approvals for laying of fibre and tower installations, boosting upcoming 5G roll out, and said a legal backing for the Right of Way (RoW) will be in place by December.

The GatiShakti Sanchar portal will facilitate centralised Right of Way (RoW) approvals. An online platform for the industry to apply for RoW approvals as they build telecom infrastructure, including for 5G services, the GatiShakti Sanchar portal offers a unified, integrated, centralised approach covering all states and UTs, and central government ministries.

For players, it promises to reduce the days involved in getting stipulated permissions, lower costs, and facilitate ease of doing business.

Unveiling the portal, Mr. Vaishnaw asserted the need for legal provisions for Right of Way, and promised that a strong legal backing will be put in place by December this year.

Put simply, the RoW rules on setting up of telecom towers and cable laying, offer a framework for giving approvals, settling of disputes, and facilitates coordination between industry and various agencies.

At present, the RoW rules are based on administrative process, and a strong legal backing is required to empower local officials, bring clarity on the fee structure, and fix accountability, Mr. Vaishnaw explained.

“That will be our next step. Moreover, all the portals that are there, especially Gati Shakti portal, railway portal, highway portal, and others… integration of those… We will be working on these two technological and legal aspects,” Mr. Vaishnaw said.

Work has started on these two fronts already, and the integration of portals is expected in the next 3-4 months, while the timelines for providing legal backing is December-end.

Asked if legal provisions for RoW will also entail penalties if approval timelines are not met, the minister said generally accountability and penalty tend to be linked. “Otherwise, it is about deemed approval,” he said.

The new GatiShakti Sanchar portal is expected to significantly ease the process of RoW approvals for laying down of infrastructure by players, as it offers a centralised and unified approach to permissions.

Further, the integration of the portal with GIS, will give state governments and various agencies more visibility into the optical fibre mesh and digital networks that are in place. The RoW approval time has already come down from 100 days to 22 days, Mr. Vaishnaw said, lauding the state governments for their proactive role in streamlining processes.

Once the work on the technological as well as legal aspects is done, the 22 days cycle could further reduce to even one week, going forward.

The portal will act as an enabler to the objective of ‘ease of doing business’ for telecommunications infrastructure, the Minister said. The timely disposal of RoW applications of various service and infrastructure providers will enable speedy network creation, catalysing timely rollout of 5G, the Minister said.

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