labels: telecom, telecom regulatory authority of india
TRAI proposes sharing of entire telecom infrastructure networknews
11 April 2007

Mumbai: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has proposed the sharing of passive, active and back haul networks in the country for faster rollouts of networks in urban and rural areas, and at lower cost.

Considering the exponential growth in wireless telecom services and the requirement of vast infrastructure for mobile telephony in the country, TRAI said, massive investment requirements can be reduced by sharing infrastructure - passive, active and back haul components.

Apart from huge investments needed to build fresh infrastructure the time taken to roll out could be a major bottleneck in the achievement of 500 million subscribers by 2010, TRAI said.

The country would require about 3.3 lakh towers by 2010 against the present one lakh towers. Even if the target is achieved, it will only be about 50 per cent of the tele-density with major gaps in the rural areas, TRAI said in its proposals to Department of Telecom (DoT).

TRAI has sought amendment in the licence condition to allow active infrastructure sharing limited to antenna, feeder cable, node B, radio access network and transmission systems. However, the authority has not favoured sharing of spectrum at this stage.

"Considering the importance of back haul sharing for mobile services in rural and far flung areas, licensing conditions should be amended to allow operators to share their back haul in a limited way on optical fibre. No sharing of spectrum at access network side is permitted", it said.

Sharing of active infrastructure is currently not permitted under the licencing agreement. TRAI also has not favoured any policy intervention for this.

Passive infrastructure sharing means sharing of physical sites, buildings, shelters, towers, power supply and battery backup and is permitted under the licences.

TRAI took into consideration the prevailing international practices and has opted for co-operative efforts amongst telecom service providers with least regulatory intervention. The authority has made it clear that it does not prefer any mandated passive infrastructure sharing but has required that the entire process should be transparent and non-discriminatory. The licensees should be required to announce on their website the details of existing as well as future infrastructure installations available for sharing by the other service providers.

The mode of commercial agreement has been left to the telecom service providers but it has reserved the option of prescribing a standard commercial agreement format in future if the process of infrastructure sharing does not become a pattern of planning in the schemes of telecom service providers. It seeks conclusion of commercial agreements in four weeks'' time.

In a major recommendation, the TRAI has recognised the need for immediate identification of critical infrastructure sites. It has recommended a joint working group under the chairmanship of the district magistrate to take spot decisions. The representatives of the telecom service providers, municipal corporation/local bodies and a representative of military land control wing, where necessary, would be its members.

In order to provide level-playing field and rollout opportunities to all the licensees, the authority has expanded the scope of financial incentive for passive infrastructure sharing in rural and far-flung remote areas. Accordingly, it has recommended that all the licensees in any service areas should qualify for financial subvention schemes meant for rural areas though at reduced scale compared to the winner in the tender process of USOF administration. TRAI has also recognised the need to encourage use of non-conventional energy sources and has recommended to the DoT to finalise suitable schemes in consultation with the concerned ministry so as to resolve the critical power availability issue.

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TRAI proposes sharing of entire telecom infrastructure network